History of the Bougainville Hammock
leaving an illustrious career as a mathematician, Count Louis Antoine
de Bougainville (1729-1811) joined the French army and served in the
Americas defending French interests, participating under the leadership
of Montcalm in the fateful defense of the city of Quebec, which was
ultimately decided on the plains of Abraham.
His New World adventures never diminished his passion for exploration,
and he eventually became the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the
globe (1766 to 1769), visiting many of the Polynesian islands and even
having another, large island named after him. His renowned Description d’un voyage autour du monde contributed much to the then popular beliefs regarding the high moral character of the "noble sauvage" living in harmony with nature.
However, before that famous voyage he still
served some years in the French navy and was sent to South America,
where he established a French colony on the present-day Falkland
Islands and spent some time exploring the South American coast.
During one such exploration of coastal Brazil, the expedition’s
botanist, Philibert Commerson, discovered the colourful vining plant
which he named Bougainvillea in honour of the Count.
bounteous beauty of cascading flowers has made the Bougainvillea a
favorite plant in tropical gardens around the world, typifying the exuberant visual experience of the tropics.
On these coastal expeditions, the explorers
also had the opportunity to confirm the central role hammocks still
played in indigenous everyday life, just as the Portuguese explorers
had observed more than two hundred and fifty years earlier.
the Bougainvillea, the hammock is one of the most enduring gifts the
Americas have made to the world. Hammocks had already been used for
centuries by indigenous people in South and Central America as a
hanging bed or carrying device, before they were discovered in the "New
World" by Columbus, who then introduced them by name and concept to
Europe. Just a few years after his discovery, Portuguese explorers in
the early 1500’s found hammocks in use in Brazil, where the indigenous
people taught them about hammock construction."
The Europeans adapted the original design to fit the tight confines of
their sailing ships, making a narrow, less comfortable hammock that
unfortunately to this day informs the design of many Western hammocks.
When it became viable to give consideration to comfort, improvements
could be made: The hammocks were once again made wider to accommodate a
proper and comfortable sleeping posture, and sliding (“floating”)
spreader bars were introduced at each end. The advantage of these
spreaders was twofold: First, this design was more bed-like, and so
prevented the hammock from enveloping the sleeper and leaving him
trussed up. Second, by allowing the hammock’s harness ropes at each end
to slide freely through evenly spaced holes in the spreader bars,
stability was optimized and the essential comfort of the original
hammock was restored.
Through circuitous dissemination over time,
the knowledge of the hand-woven hammock was handed down and found its
way back to the Canadian territories where to this day the hammock
making craft is practiced, on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence
river in the heart of the Thousand Islands. There, durable, comfortable
hammocks are now made with soft, braided spun polyester cord, the
furthest evolutionary steps removed from the treebark and sisal
originally used centuries ago.
appreciation of two exceptional gifts from the "New World", we have
brought them together again: the Bougainville name lives on in our
hammocks, ever evoking the beauty and comfort of pure tropical