As visitors to the Mound House will learn, in 1513 ,Ponce de Leon was the first European to explore “La Florida” and it was in that same year that he and his men landed very near to this location and first encountered the Calusa. But before even making landfall, Ponce made another important discovery that would affect trade and exploration of the New World for centuries. Although its existence was known to a few others, it was also during this same voyage that Ponce discovered the vitally important the Gulf Stream and according to Ponce: “ A current such that, although they had great wind, they could not proceed forward, but backward and it seems that they were proceeding well; at the end it was known that the current was more powerful than the wind”.
A river of seawater averaging 6 miles wide and over 3,000 feet deep, the Gulf Stream originates in the straits of Florida and is driven largely by wind stress as it travels across the southern tip of Florida, turning northward and into the Atlantic, extending along the eastern coast of North America and then turning again eastward into the North Atlantic and Europe. The Gulf Stream is a rapidly traveling current moving at as much as 5.6mph. This conveyor belt current gave sailors a tremendous advantage in sailing back to Europe from the New World. Fighting its current could add as much as two weeks to a transatlantic crossing from Europe.
As Deputy Postmaster of the British American Colonies, Ben Franklin assembled the knowledge of Nantucket whalers and was the first to publish a map and be the first to name the Gulf Stream in 1770.
Moreover, the proximity of warm Gulf Stream waters to the peninsula of Florida not only warms the air of our State during the cold winter months but also the British Isles and coastlines of Northern Europe.