THE GULF STREAM
Four centuries ago no one knew a great deal about ocean currents.
When Ponce de Leon, sailing around the southern tip of the Floridian
peninsula, suddenly became aware that his ship was riding one of these
great ocean rivers, he was, no doubt, alarmed. Although he had twenty
years experience in sailing the waters of the new world, he had never
witnessed such an amazing situation. A light wind filled the sails, yet
the current was so strong that it forced his ship backward. Ponce de
Leon recorded the incident, for the great current amazed him.
That is the first record of this current in the Straits of Florida.
More than a century later, in 1630, Sir Robert Dudley made a study of
currents in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. In 1771,
another Englishman, William Gerard de Brahm, mapping the Florida east
coast, called this current the "Florida Stream" but it remained for
Benjamin Franklin to give it the name it bears today, the Gulf Stream.
Many years passed before men learned the story of the Gulf
Stream. The current is still under observation, for it is not merely an
ocean current, but, as our geographies tell us, it affects the climate of
A glance at an atlas shows what our geographies mean. Alaska is
within the Arctic Circle; so is the Scandinavian peninsula. Alaska has
five hundred and ninety thousand square miles of land; Norway,