top of page

Pathfinder of the Seas

Dashed Dreams to Gulf Streams

Matthew Maury’s dreams were crushed. Instead of achieving his life’s dream of captaining his own sailing ship, he was disabled by a stagecoach accident. All he could hope for was a desk job, definitely not in the plans.

Then came a challenge which revolutionized both Maury's life and America’s postal system. There was a problem: the mail ships from England weren’t bringing letters to America fast enough.

Then-Postmaster General Ben Franklin tried to discover the reason why our whaling ships crossed the Atlantic faster than British mail ships, designed for speed. He quizzed the captain of a New England whaling vessel about the speed of his ship. The captain replied, “We know the Gulf Stream well. We told them (the British) they were fighting the current. When the winds are good, they lose 70 miles a day.”

What Gulf Stream?

No one had officially located ocean currents yet, though God had dropped the hint in the Bible for anyone curious. It seems British sea captains thought themselves too wise to learn from simple colonial fishermen. Maury, a lame man with a curious mind, was intrigued and accepted the challenge.

He noticed the phrase “paths of the sea” while reading Psalm 8:8 (written 2,800 years ago). He said, “If God says there are paths in the sea, I am going to find them.” He did more than that; he mapped them! Maury met with sailors from around the world in Brussels, Belgium in 1853, where paths in the sea took shape on paper.

“There is a river in the sea,” Maury said, describing the Gulf Stream. “Its banks and its bottom are of cold water, while its current is of warm. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is the Arctic seas. There is in the world no other such majestic flow of waters. Its current is more rapid than the Mississippi or Amazon, and its volume more than a thousand times greater.”

He discovered the waters of the Gulf Stream were indigo blue, while regular ocean water was green. And there was a distinct line between the waters of the Gulf Stream and regular ocean water. In 1855 Matthew published a book Physical Geography of the Sea which remains a basic text on the subject.

Honors for this oceanographer didn’t end there; Maury received numerous accolades. In the 1850s he aided in laying a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. England awarded him honors and financial remuneration. Later in life he became a professor of meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute.

From dashed dreams to Gulf Streams—and a fulfilled life. It all began when one man stopped looking at circumstances he couldn’t change and focused on serving others. He was quick to credit God his Creator, who hid undiscovered scientific facts in the pages of His Word.

What’s holding US back?

Any thoughts on God's unusual life paths? We would enjoy your comments below.

bottom of page