When you think of a hammock, you might think of lying out by the pool with the smell of sunscreen in the air or camping in the forest with a much different smell—campfire and pine—different, but still good. July 22 is National Hammock Day, and we can celebrate by relaxing and recognizing hammocks for their symbol of summer and leisure—easy life. But that’s not the history of hammocks; hammocks did make life easier, but not from first-world problems. Hammocks made life easier for people who didn’t have protection from nature, helping sailors, astronauts, and people from the old world have a safer and more organized life.
Hammocks to keep away pests
Hammocks were first used by Native Americans. When Spanish colonists invaded what is known today as the Bahamas (and other parts of Central and South America)—a place of vacation and leisure—the colonists found that the Native Americans were using these slings suspended between two trees for sleeping. Christopher Columbus was one of the first people to write down the Native American’s use of the hammock. And he took a few hammocks back to Spain. Native Americans would use the hammock to escape pests like snakes, rats, ants, and insects. Being suspended above ground allowed for their protection. Scholars even discovered that hammock-users would place hot coals under their hammocks for warmth and protection from insects. Today, that might sound like a fire hazard, but it worked for them.
Hammocks—the antidote for seasickness
Sometime later, hammocks were used in sailing ships or other naval vessels. Because there was limited space under the deck, the hammocks allowed for more beds and were easily packed up when they weren’t needed for sleep. They could also be used as floatation devices with the small mattresses they used to keep the cold out of the hammock. Another amazing thing about hammocks for sailors was that the hammock rocked with the vessel, which helped prevent seasickness and made it so no one was risking their life just by sleeping. In regular bunk beds in ships at the time, people could be thrown from their beds during storms and become injured or killed from the fall. Hammocks were life-saving devices.
Hammocks on the moon
When Americans went to the moon, hammocks were even used as the astronauts’ beds on the moon for similar reasons that sailors used hammocks. Astronauts’ hammocks saved space on the lunar modules. During Apollo 17, the two astronauts were on the moon for more than three days. They probably got the best sleep of their lives—5/6 less gravity than the earth and in one of the most relaxing devices ever created.
The hammock—a baby prison
Don’t you hate it when babies learn to move, and you start worrying that they’ll crawl to their escape. And if you’re like my mother, you’ll worry that they’ll crawl away to their death. In the 1920s, mothers and fathers in North America were worried about the same thing. They used hammocks as small prisons for babies just learning to crawl. But they probably stopped because the babies kept on falling out of the hammock . . . not such a great idea.
The modern hammock
Today, we use hammocks for countless reasons, but mostly for leisure. There are feet hammocks, camping hammocks, pool hammocks, tree hammocks, and—Chirp’s favorite—neck hammocks. Chirp loves the Neck Hammock because it will make you feel like you’re taking a vacation from your pain and getting back to the basics of what hammocks were always used for—practical, life-saving, protection. In this case, protection against back pain. Check out Chirp’s Neck Hammock to see what we’re talking about.