Project description

Shrouded in Chinese military secrecy and hidden from the eyes of journalists, Beijing’s buildup of islands on disputed reefs in the South China Sea is a vexing story to report.

The Reuters graphics team used a unique data gathering technique based on satellite imagery to reveal the true pace and scale of construction. We plotted every island, beach, reef and shoal over time on the main flashpoint islands of the Spratlys and the Paracels. It revealed change taking place at a staggering pace.

What makes this project innovative?

The data gathering process was the most innovative part of this piece. Hundreds of satellite images taken over years were digitally scrutinised by running them through an algorithm to identify, count, trace and analyse every single building structure in a given area. While most media had focused on land reclamation on the islands, Reuters showed the extent and intensity of building construction taking place above ground. Reuters used the algorithm to collate an exclusive dataset, which readers could breakdown by country and island group.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

The analysis astounded even the most experienced experts on the issue and was shared widely online. It was also picked up by many other news organisations.Hundreds of satellite images taken over years were digitally scrutinised by running them through an algorithm to identify, count, trace and analyse every single building structure in a given area.

Source and methodology

This was an exclusive dataset collated exclusively for this story. Reuters worked with expert satellite image analysts to digitally scrutinise hundreds of satellite images taken over years. The images were ran through an algorithm to identify, count, trace and analyse every single building structure in a given area.

Technologies Used

Javascript, GQIS, Adobe creative suite.

Project members

Jin Wu, Simon Scarr, Weiyi Cai

Link

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