New Zealand's reputation as the "shaky isles" has been well illustrated in a map showing more than 100 years of global earthquakes.

Data visualiser John Nelson, map manager for IDV Solutions, has composed a world map of earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater from 1898 through to 2003 - 203,186 tremors in total.

Mr Nelson has marked each with a bright dot, ranging from bright blue to fluoro green depending on the quake's magnitude.

The resulting image shows the outlines of the Earth's tectonic plates, with the Pacific Ring of Fire the most vivid part of the world. New Zealand is completely covered in the markers.


"I have a general sense of where it is, and a notion of plate tectonics, but when I first pulled the data in and started painting it in geographically, it was magnificent," Mr Nelson told

"I was awestruck at how rigid those bands of earthquake activity really are."

He said the project threw up a few surprises.

"First, I was surprised by the sheer amount of earthquakes that have been recorded," Mr Nelson said.

"It's almost like you could walk from Seattle to Wellington if these things were floating in the ocean, and I wouldn't have expected that."

Mr Nelson used data from the United States Geological Survey and the image is from NASA. He said there may be earthquakes missing from earlier records, saying the data available increased notably from the 1960s onwards.

The map does not show several massive recent earthquakes, such as the Boxing Day 2004 quake, the 2010 Haiti quake, last year's Japanese earthquake, or the Canterbury earthquakes.

Infographic: Debris left by the 2011 tsunami in Japan