Spanish mountaineer emerges after 500 days underground

Beatriz Flamini, a 50-year-old elite sportswoman and mountaineer, emerged Friday after spending 500 days in a cave outside Granada for a research project.

A 50-year-old Spanish extreme athlete who spent 500 days living 70 metres deep in a cave outside Granada with no contact with the outside world has told how the time flew by, and said she did not want to come out.

Beatriz Flamini, an elite sportswoman and mountaineer, is said by her support team to have broken a world record for the longest time spent in a cave in an experiment closely monitored by scientists seeking to learn more about the capacities of the human mind and circadian rhythms. She was 48 when she went into the cave, and celebrated two birthdays alone underground.

No news from outside

She began her challenge on Nov. 20, 2021 — before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the resultant cost of living crisis, the end of Spain’s lengthy COVID-19 mask requirement and the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

She emerged into the light of spring in southern Spain on Friday wearing dark glasses, carrying her equipment and smiling broadly. She was greeted by a phalanx of cameras and her support team who, wearing masks, encircled her in a hug.

She described her experience as “excellent, unbeatable,” and said that time had flown by.

“When they came in to get me, I was asleep. I thought something had happened. I said: ‘Already? Surely not.’ I hadn’t finished my book.”

Asked if she ever thought about pressing her panic button or leaving the cave, she replied: “Never. In fact I didn’t want to come out.”

Spent time reading, knitting

Flamini spent her time underground doing exercises, painting and drawing, and knitting woolly hats. She took two GoPro cameras to document her time, and got through 60 books and 1,000 litres of water, according to her support team.

WATCH | 500 days spent living in a cave: 

Spanish mountaineer lived underground for 500 days

Beatriz Flamini recorded videos of her time in a Spanish cave outside Granada for a research project.

There were hard moments — such as when the cave was invaded by flies — and some “beautiful ones,” she said.

“If this is your dream, and you’re realizing it, why are you going to cry?”

She said she had focused on retaining “coherence,” eating well and relishing the silence. She looked forward to treats such as avocados, fresh eggs and clean T-shirts that her support team sent down before, “like gods,” also removing her waste.

“I didn’t talk to myself out loud, but I had internal conversations and got on very well with myself,” she joked.

“You have to remain conscious of your feelings — if you’re afraid that’s something natural, but never let panic in or you get paralyzed.”

Monitored by her team

She insisted her team had been told to contact her under no circumstances, even about a death in the family.

“If it’s no communication it’s no communication regardless of the circumstances. The people who know me knew and respected that,” she said.

Flamini was monitored by a group of psychologists, researchers, speleologists — specialists in the study of caves — and physical trainers who watched her every move and monitored her physical and mental well-being.

According to Spanish news agency EFE, her experience is being studied by scientists at the universities of Granada and Almeria and a Madrid-based sleep clinic to determine the impact of social isolation and extreme temporary disorientation on people’s perception of time, the possible neuropsychological and cognitive changes humans undergo underground, and the impact on circadian rhythms and sleep.

Wants eggs and chips with friends

Flamini said she was now looking forward to a shower and sharing a plate of fried eggs and chips with friends. She said she would put herself in the hands of doctors to study the impact on her body and mind, before planning new mountaineering and caving projects.

The Guinness Book of Records website awards the “longest time survived trapped underground” to the 33 Chilean and Bolivian miners who spent 69 days 688 metres underground after the collapse of the San José copper-gold mine in Chile in 2010.

A spokesperson for Guinness was not able to immediately confirm whether there was a separate record for voluntary time living in a cave and whether Flamini had broken it.

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