As part of the Ocean Planet/Bigelow Laboratories Ocean Sciences program, the smart folks at Bigelow have created a weath of information on ocean currents. Especially the notorious Gulf Stream. Even though I am racing on the other side of the Atlantic and we started in France, the Gulf Stream’s effects are so vast that it alters the weather everywhere from Florida all the way to Ireland. Even many of the storms that hit Les Sables d’Olonne, France where our race started, are often effected by the famous stream of warm water.
The Gulf Stream is one of the world’s most intensely studied ocean systems. I like to picture it as a giant river of sea water. It carries warm water from the Gulf of Mexico northward along the east coast of the United States, then across the Atlantic Ocean – creating a “river” between North America and Europe. It is about 50 miles wide and travels at about 5 miles per hour, which is relatively fast for an ocean current.
If you have ever sailed offshore from the east coast of the U.S., you have likely had a “Gulf Stream” experience and possibly some good stories from it! Many offshore racers, especially those that race to Bermuda, have spent a lifetime learning how to best deal with the capricious “river at sea!” Aside from the current itself, the warm evaporating water can fuel thunderstorms with awesome, frightening power. You might have heard an old salt mention with a perceptable shiver the “North Wall” of the stream where it runs next to the cold Labrador current coming from the north. When there is a low pressure system moving towards this area, you don’t want to be there, trust me.
Anyway, if you REALLY want to learn something useful about the stream other than my stories, read the other Bigelow Laboratories Ocean Sciences updates on OceanPlanet.org
I know I will before I go there again!
Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet