Beatriz Flamini spent 500 days alone in a cave in Montril, Spain for an experiment on the effects of long-term solitude on the human mind and body.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest a human being has ever survived while trapped underground was 69 days — a record unintentionally set by a group of Chilean miners after they got trapped in 2010 following a mine collapse.
But last week, a Spanish mountaineer and extreme sportswoman named Beatriz Flamini may have just broken that record. As part of an experiment to measure the effects of long-term solitude on the human body, Flamini spent a whopping 500 days in a Spanish cave near Granada, 230 feet underground and with almost no interaction with the outside world.
Flamini began her challenge on Nov. 20, 2021 equipped with water, food, and a couple of cameras she used to record her experience, as well as items like books, paint, and knitting kits to help her pass the time.
Throughout the experiment, Flamini spent her days exercising, cooking, drawing, knitting hats, and relishing in the silence. Over the 500 days, she read a total of 60 books and frequently had conversations with herself about them.
“I didn’t talk to myself out loud, but I had internal conversations and got on very well with myself,” Flamini told Reuters.
Not only did Flamini spend two birthdays in the cave, but she was also unaware of any major news events that occurred within her 500 days of isolation, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the lifting of her home country’s mask mandate, Will Smith’s Oscars slap, and the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Flamini seemed determined not to let the solitude impact her mentally. Before entering the cave, she did mental exercises to help prepare her for the reality of her new life underground.
“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,” she told Reuters.
The Guardian reports that in a meeting with the press, Flamini was asked whether there was ever a moment where she felt like she was close to panicking and giving up. After a moment of thought, she said that at one point, insects had swarmed her in the cave.
“The flies! The flies! The flies!” Flamini said. “There was an invasion of flies. They came in, they laid their larvae and I didn’t control it and so I suddenly ended up enveloped by flies. It wasn’t that complicated, but it wasn’t healthy, but that’s just what it was.”
Despite uncomfortable run-ins with insects, Flamini stuck it out. Now, researchers are hoping to study Flamini to better understand how long-term solitude impacts the human body’s circadian rhythms, brain patterns, and perception of time.
Flamini was reportedly so committed to the experiment that she told the team of psychologists, researchers, cave experts, and physical trainers monitoring her that under no circumstances were they to interact with her.
While Flamini allowed her team to bring her food and supplies and to pick up her waste, they remained out of sight when they did so and refrained from speaking with her. She even asked that the team not inform her if there was an emergency or death in her family.
“If it’s no communication, it’s no communication regardless of the circumstances,” Flamini told Reuters. “The people who know me knew and respected that.”
Flamini said that she lost track of time fairly early in her ordeal. After day 65, she had given up trying to monitor what time and day it was. From then on, Flamini said, time “flew.”
As reported by Reuters, after Flamini had reached the 500-day mark and the team descended to bring her back to the surface, she stated, “I thought something had happened. I said, ‘Already? Surely not.’ I hadn’t finished my book.
“In fact,” Flamini said. “I didn’t want to come out.”
When Flamini emerged, she was met with a swarm of friends and reporters looking to congratulate her for finishing the experiment. Images show her smiling and embracing those that helped make the experiment possible. Reporters at a press conference asked her why she appeared so happy coming out of the cave.
“How would you feel if you had a dream and you fulfilled it?” she responded, as reported by The Guardian. “Would you come out crying?”
Upon the end of the experiment, Flamini told reporters that she was looking forward to a shower and eating a plate of fried eggs and chips with friends. For now, she has plans to conduct new mountaineering and caving projects but has made it clear that she would do the experiment again in a heartbeat.
“I could go another 500 days,” she said in a press conference, Insider reports.
It’s possible Flamini broke a record for the longest time spent underground. As Reuters reports, while the Chilean miners hold the record for the “longest time survived trapped underground,” Guinness World Record spokespeople have not yet confirmed if there is a separate record for the longest time spent in a cave voluntarily.
After reading about Beatriz Flamini’s 500-day experiment underground, discover the tragic story behind the closing of Utah’s Nutty Putty cave. Then, learn about the story of Floyd Collins, the man who spent 17 days trapped in a cave in 1925.