Ben Franklin at the Bottom of the Sea
Twenty-three miles off the coast of North Carolina, living in Onslow Bay, is a temperate reef named after Ben Franklin. It seems slightly odd that a coral reef would bear Ben Franklin’s name; however, there is a good explanation. The Ben Franklin Temperate Reef is frequently under the influence of the Gulf Stream – which was originally charted by… Benjamin Franklin.
According to Barbara Tuchman in The First Salute, “American captains, advised by whales, understood the location of the Gulf Stream and crossed over it, instead of running against it for days.” This allowed American merchant ships to make the crossing much faster than English mail ships. As Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin became aware of this trend and conducted experiments of his own to test the track of the stream. Franklin offered this information to Anthony Todd, Secretary of the British Post Office, but as this was in 1770, (before the war) the English opted to ignore the American advice. “Ben Franklin’s report on the Gulf Stream was withheld until after the war, when it could no longer help the British,” adds Tuchman.
As is the case with his other more famous discoveries (such as electricity) Ben Franklin brought attention to a natural phenomenon which continues to aid and enhance modern life. For that achievement, a temperate reef named in Ben Franklin's honor seems very fitting.
To learn other exciting details about Benjamin Franklin, visit Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, on display through July 8th.