There’s nothing like a nice hammock in the shade on a warm, summer afternoon. They’re seen mostly as a symbol of leisure and relaxation, but they served a specific purpose for where they were first used.

Natives of Central and South America and the Caribbean used them to keep themselves off the ground while they slept. It was for protection against ants, snakes, rats and other animals.

Hammock comes from a term meaning fish net. Spanish explorers were the first to see them and it was Christopher Columbus who brought back several of them to Spain from what it is now the Bahamas.

It wasn’t long before Europeans figured out a way to use them. The British Royal Navy was the first to use them on sailing ships. Space was tight and with hammocks all you needed was to roll them up and store them in a small space when they weren’t being used. When they were being used it protected the sleeper from being tossed onto the deck when the waves got rough. They would just sway with the ship and it was almost like they were in a cocoon. Before that sailors would sometimes be hurt or even killed when they would get tossed out of their bunks in high swells.

Hammocks were even used during the moon landings. To save space on the lunar modules, the astronauts had hammocks they used to sleep in. The last of the six moon landing missions was Apollo 17. The two astronauts were on the moon for more than three days so those hammocks were an absolute necessity.