While the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first formally identified the Gulf Stream in 1513, Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to describe and chart this strong, northward-flowing current off the east coast of North America in 1769. Franklin drafted this map of the Gulf Stream.
The Gulf Stream is an intense, warm ocean current in the western North Atlantic Ocean. It moves north along the coast of Florida and then turns eastward off of North Carolina, flowing northeast across the Atlantic.
Off the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, the Gulf Stream flows at a rate nearly 300 times faster than the typical flow of the Amazon River. The velocity of the current is fastest near the surface, with the maximum speed typically about 5.6 miles per hour (nine kilometers per hour). The average speed of the Gulf Stream, however, is four miles per hour (6.4 kilometers per hour). The current slows to a speed of about one mile per hour (1.6 kilometers per hour) as it widens to the north.The Gulf Stream transports nearly four billion cubic feet of water per second, an amount greater than that carried by all of the world's rivers combined.