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Five Hundred Days Alone

A mountain climber spent 500 days alone in a cave to learn the effects of isolation on the human brain.

A woman smiles as she walks out of a rock-filled cave as another woman reaches out to assist her.

Jorge Guerrero—AFP/Getty Images

In this April 14, 2023, photo, Beatriz Flamini leaves the cave where she spent 500 days in isolation.

A mountain climber from Spain spent 500 days alone in a cave to help researchers study the effects of isolation on the human brain. Beatriz Flamini entered the cave in November 2021 and did not see another human being until she emerged in April 2023.

The cave was located 230 feet (70 meters) underground near Granada, Spain. Flamini spent the time weaving, drawing, cooking meals, and exercising. She also read 60 books. Throughout her time in the cave, Flamini made and transmitted videos, which a support crew watched in order to monitor her mental and physical health. The crew was also responsible for leaving food at a drop-off point. Flamini left the cave only once—around day 300—when there was a technical problem. She spent about eight days alone in a tent until she could return to the cave.

Flamini had no idea what was happening in the outside world. She asked the crew not to tell her about any news events or even anything having to do with her family. After about two months, she stopped keeping track of time. She later said she didn’t mind the isolation at all, possibly because she’s an extreme athlete who regularly undertakes sports challenges.

“You have to be focused,” she told The Guardian. “If I get distracted, I’ll twist my ankle. I’ll get hurt. It’ll be over and they’ll have to get me out. And I don’t want that.”

On the 500th day, crew members entered the cave to get her, as planned. Flamini said the time had passed so quickly that she couldn’t believe it was time to leave. Researchers in Spain are now studying how both the lack of human contact and the constant darkness affected Flamini. For now, though, Flamini says she remained content throughout the experiment.

“I was sleeping—or at least dozing—when they came down to get me,” Flamini told The Guardian. “I thought something had happened. I said, ‘Already? No way.’ I hadn’t finished my book.”

Did You Know?

A young girl climbs a steep boulder in a park.

© Olivier Renck—Aurora Photos/Cavan Images/Alamy

Ashima Shiraishi, age 7, climbs Rat Rock in New York City’s Central Park.

One of the best rock climbers in the world is 22-year-old Ashima Shiraishi. A native of New York City, Shiraishi became interested in climbing at age 6, after making it to the top of Rat Rock, a boulder in the city’s famous Central Park. When she was 14, she completed what was then considered to be the hardest boulder climb ever done by a woman.

Home Sweet Home?

A long, thin, pink and white animal without eyes

© pwmotion/stock.adobe.com

A troglobite

If you were to venture into a cave, what animals would you expect to find? You might think of a bear taking its winter snooze or a colony of bats, hanging from the ceiling to stay out of the reach of predators. But bears and bats don’t spend all of their time in caves. Many true cave dwellers are much smaller—and weirder.

A cave is a true home to troglobites. These animals, which include some types of insects, millipedes, fish, and shrimp, never leave the cave and have developed adaptations to survive in the darkness. Most troglobites are white or pinkish because they don’t need pigment, or color, to protect them from the Sun’s rays. Troglobites don’t need eyes, so many don’t have them. Troglobites have other body parts that help them sense their surroundings, such as antennae or long legs.

Secrets of Caves

Large crystals grow inside a cave.

© Joshua/stock.adobe.com

How do caves form, and why do some caves look as if they contain icicles? Learn more about caves at Britannica School!

WORD OF THE DAY

spelunking

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

: the sport or practice of exploring or studying caves

Definitions provided by
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Criss Cross

Here’s a list of weird landforms. See if you can figure out where they go in the grid.

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