1500 - 1763 Discovery and First Spanish Period
1763 - 1783 English Period
1783 - 1821 Second Spanish Period
1821 - 1845 Territorial Period
1845 - Statehood
and Later
1861 - 1865 Civil War
Gulf Stream The Mapping of the Current


Mapping of the Gulf Stream
Anyone in southeast Florida knows about the Gulf Stream and many have crossed it on a cruise or sailboat or gone fishing there for “the big ones.” Unfortunately, the early explorers and traders learned about the Gulf Stream and other ocean currents the hard way. Sometimes they were unable to make headway or were pushed sideways or even moved faster regardless of the strength of direction of the wind. One example of that was the difficulty the Portuguese explorers had in sailing around the south end of Africa. They were fighting against the counterclockwise force of the southern equatorial current which was strongest south of the Guinea coast. By sailing west from the Canary Islands into the Atlantic then southeast to the tip of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) Portuguese navigator and explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral was able to solve the problem. Incidental to that, he accidentally “discovered” Brazil, which later became a Portuguese colony.

The first recorded episode involving the Gulf Stream was by the Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon when he landed on the coast of Florida in 1513 with three ships. Two of the ships anchored close to shore and the other one was farther out. That ship did not anchor and drifted north in the Gulf Stream. Ponce’s pilot (captain) paid attention to this and made other observations which convinced him of the existence of the north flowing stream. His name was Anton de Alaminos.

Alaminos has also observed the difficulty they had in sailing south along the Florida coast from about Cape Canaveral then around the Keys to the west coast of Florida. On other voyages, he noted that the current flowed north into the Gulf of Mexico along the coast of Yucatan and that the current entered the Caribbean Sea flowing west in the southern portion. This was later shown to be a westward branch of the southern equatorial current. Alaminos was the one who established the return route from the Caribbean to Spain by using the Gulf Stream around the coast of Florida north in the Atlantic, turning east north of Bermuda, then on to the Azores and home to Spain. One of the most important of those voyages was his return to Spain with the riches of Cortez from Mexico.

The maps will show the various depictions of the Gulf Stream based on observations of temperature color of the water, direction of flow, speed of the current, flotsam and seaweed, and finally, satellite images.

Remember if you are in Florida: “This stream flows always north.”

Ortelius. Hispaniolae,
          Cubae, Aliarumque Insularum Circumiacientium,
          Delineatio on a sheet with Culiacanae,
          Americae Regionis, Descriptio.
          Publ. in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. 1584
Hispaniolae, Cubae, Aliarumque Insularum Circumiacientium, Delineatio on a sheet with Culiacanae, Americae Regionis, Descriptio. Publ. in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.
Ortelius, Abraham (1527-1598)
Athanasius Kircher
Mappa Fluxus et Refluxus rationes in Isthmo America... etc. Published in Mundus Subterraneus in Amsterdam 1665, 1668, and 1678
Kircher, Athanasius (c. 1601-1680)
Nicolas De Fer
Les Isles de L'Amerique connue sous le Nom D'Antilles... etc. Paris. L'Atlas Curieux
De Fer, Nicolas (1646-1720)
John Gerard William DeBrahm
Hydrographical Map of the Atlantic Ocean<
DeBrahm, John Gerard William (c.1717-1799)
Benjamin Franklin Poupard
A New and Exact Chart...
Franklin, Benjamin (1706-1790) Folger, Timothy
1769 or 1770
Le Rouge
Remarques sur la Navigation de Terr-Neuve afin d’euiter les Courrants et les bas-fonds au sud de Nantuckett el du Banc de George.
Le Rouge, Georges Louis (c.1712-c.1790)

Benjamin Franklin Poupard
A Chart of the Gulf Stream
Poupard, J. Sculpt
Benjamin Franklin, Chart of the Gulf Stream
Chart of the Gulf Stream
Franklin, Benjamin ? (1706-1790)
Gov. Thomas Pownall
The Atlantic Ocean by Governor Pownall F.R.S. published by Robert Sayer in London, Sept. 1787 in A Pilot for the West Indies.
Pownall, Gov. Thomas (1722-1805)
Jonathan Williams
Chart of the Atlantic Ocean
Williams, Jonathan (1750-1815)
Benjamin Jones
Atlantic or Western Ocean
Jones, Benjamin (fl. 1778-1809)

Duane Gulf Stream chart
A chart of the Atlantic Ocean exhibiting the course of the Gulf Stream
Duane, William (Publisher)

A.D. Bache
Chart of the Gulf Stream showing its Axis and Limits... etc.
Bache, Alexander Dallas (fl. 1854-1865)

A.D. Bache French copy
Carte du Gulf Stream d'apres les Observations reucillies de 1845 a 1854
Currents of the Ocean
Weller, Edward (d. 1884)

Ocean Currents and River Systems
J. Bartholomew
 Edward Schmits
Surface Currents of the Atlantic Ocean
Schmits, Edward A.
 Jenifer Clark’s
          Gulfstream Chart
Jenifer Clark’s Gulfstream Chart
Clark, Jenifer
Credits: Website design by: Karl Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Design