A Spanish mountain climber recently left a cave 70 meters (230 feet) underground where she spent the past 500 days isolated from the outside world. As she emerged, she seemed remarkably unfazed by her feat and simply asked who would be buying the celebratory round of beers.
Beatriz Flamini, a 50-year-old from Madrid, reportedly left the cave in southern Spain on April 14, 2023, after entering on November 21, 2021. Although it’s yet to be confirmed by the big dogs at Guinness World Records, this is widely thought to be a world record for the longest time spent underground.
Technically, her stint of isolation lasted 508 days as she was forced to temporarily leave the cave for eight days due to a technical problem. However, throughout this eight days hiatus, she claimed to have still maintained isolation and stayed in a tent before returning to her cave.
She passed the time by reading, exercising, and knitting. She also kept busy with her two cameras that were used to chronicle her experiences for an upcoming documentary.
Being severed from the outside world, she was totally unaware of major news events from the past 500 days, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
"I'm still stuck on November 21, 2021. I don't know anything about the world," she said after exiting the cave, according to BBC News.
She was given a panic button just in case the feat become too overwhelming or if something went wrong. However, Flamini said she was never tempted to call for help and never considered leaving the cave.
"Never. In fact, I didn't want to come out," she told reporters after leaving the cave.
On some of the questions, Flamini struggled to reply and stumbled on her words – although that’s fairly understandable considering the extreme social isolation she has faced.
“I’ve been a year and a half without talking, and I find it difficult,” she added.
Flamini calls herself an "elite extreme sportswoman" who appears to have undertaken the experience just for the thrill of the challenge, although her efforts were being closely monitored by a team of experts and scientists. According to Reuters, they were studying her to see how social isolation and disorientation impact a person’s sense of time and their sleeping patterns.
In 2021, a separate team of 15 people emerged from a cave after just 50 days inside. The aim was to see how extreme isolation and no outside reference to time affected their bodies and minds. Completely cut off from daylight and clocks, the group had to rely on their circadian rhythms – or body clocks – to decide when to eat and sleep. Meanwhile, scientists monitored their body temperatures, sleep patterns, social interactions, and behavioral and cognitive responses to their new environment.
Flamini’s undertaking was even more extreme than this comparatively mild experiment in 2021, so scientists will no doubt be keen to probe her body and mind to see how this intense situation has affected her.
Judging by her initial response to leaving the cave, however, she is certainly made of tough stuff.