On November 20, 2021, Spanish athlete and intrepid mountaineer Atrice Flamini descended into a cavernous abyss, plunging into a profound solitude. Endowed with a wealth of wilderness expertise, she possesses boundless ardor and dauntlessness to venture into uncharted territories. Her purpose in undertaking this “experiment of seclusion” is to scrutinize the ramifications of social isolation and disorientation on human cognitive faculties, temporal perception, and sleep patterns.
On April 4, 2023, Flamini emerged from her sequestered existence, captivating the attention of the masses. What did Flamini encounter during these 500 days devoid of sunlight and the resonance of human voices? What profound insights into the essence of life did she glean from this experience?
Unfazed by challenges
If an individual were granted the opportunity to dwell alone in a lightless subterranean cavity, bereft of even the faintest glimmer, how long could they endure? What transformations would transpire within their corporeal and mental faculties? Scientists have long been captivated by this enigma. Recently, they have finally obtained an answer through the experiences of a Spanish luminary.
Atrice Flamini, born in Madrid, Spain in 1973, is a seasoned mountaineering enthusiast and an audacious aficionado of the great outdoors. She has conquered the Himalayas, scaled the summit of Mount Everest, and traversed the Amazon unaided. She survived the perils of a treacherous tropical rainforest for 17 days, armed with nothing but her bare hands and a few rudimentary tools… However, these illustrious undertakings failed to satiate Atrice’s thirst. For her, the allure of adventure knows no bounds. She even contemplated delving into the heart of snow-capped mountains, but the Mountaineering Association deemed such an endeavor utterly futile, thereby imposing a ban.
Atrice was beset by profound disappointment. The insipidness of an existence devoid of trials and tribulations was insufferable to her. Hence, she diligently sought opportunities each day, yearning for the commencement of another uncharted odyssey. Throughout the initial half of 2021, Atrice embarked on a relentless quest. She ventured alone to the Alps, toiled as a sojourner in the Sahara, and even formed camaraderie with a “Lipplate” woman, partaking in the grilling of wild game with African tribesmen… …
When November 2021 arrived, fate smiled upon Atrice once again. A collaborative project between experts from the University of Granada in Spain and a renowned sleep institute in Madrid was launched in earnest. This endeavor, dubbed the “Time Cave,” sought to examine, under the extreme conditions of life, the effects of social isolation and spatial disorientation on cerebral activity, time perception, circadian rhythms, and sleep patterns.
Experts posit that the longer the duration of the experiment, the more accurate the data collected. Consequently, they deemed it imperative that the experiment span no less than 500 days. During their search for an ideal candidate, Atrice came under the scrutiny of the research team. Experts unanimously agreed that she was the most suitable contender due to her extensive experience as an extreme mountaineer, traversing mountainous caverns around the globe year after year, endowed with unparalleled physical and mental fortitude.
When Daladi, a member of the research team, expounded upon his intentions to Atrice, she displayed unwavering resolve and promptly assented to participate in the operation. Daladi could not help but offer a word of caution: “Have you genuinely contemplated the gravity of this decision? This entails 500 days of severance from the world. There shall be no sunshine, no internet, no human interaction, no sense of time, and even bathing shall be a luxury…” Atrice promptly interjected, declaring with resolute determination, “No contemplation is necessary. I am the most fitting candidate, and only I possess the capacity to undertake this endeavor!”
Atrice had heard tell of a strikingly similar experiment conducted by American scientists in the 1980s, which aimed to substantiate the notion that time is illusory. This experiment entailed confining an individual within a space devoid of temporal references, rendering them incapable of perceiving the passage of time, thereby enabling observation of the ensuing metamorphoses and ascertaining whether time continued to wield influence.
The volunteer who partook in the experiment was a woman named Follini, hence the scientific community christened the undertaking the “Follini Temporal Experiment.” Numerous volunteers sought to participate in this investigation, and Follini stood out primarily due to her disposition. As an interior designer, she would sequester herself within enclosed spaces to fashion exquisite works of art. Over time, her ability to endure solitude and mental fortitude surpassed that of ordinary individuals.
Yet, as Follini descended beyond 30 meters into the subterranean depths, sheencountered unforeseen psychological challenges. The absence of sunlight, human interaction, and temporal references took a toll on her mental well-being. Follini’s cognitive faculties became disoriented, and she struggled to maintain a sense of time. The experiment was terminated prematurely after 129 days due to Follini’s deteriorating mental state.
Learning from the limitations of the Follini Temporal Experiment, the research team behind the Time Cave devised a comprehensive plan to support Atrice Flamini during her extended isolation. They equipped the cave with artificial lighting simulating day and night cycles to help regulate her circadian rhythms. Additionally, they provided her with an array of tasks, exercise equipment, books, and audio recordings to combat boredom and maintain cognitive engagement.
Atrice’s journey into the Time Cave commenced on November 20, 2021. As she descended into the depths, the world above vanished from her sight. The initial days were marked by a sense of exhilaration and novelty. Atrice immersed herself in the assigned activities, maintaining a disciplined routine to stave off the encroaching loneliness.
Over time, however, the weight of solitude began to exert its influence. The absence of human voices, the touch of another, and the warmth of the sun gnawed at her sense of connection and well-being. Days blurred together, and the concept of time became elusive. Atrice’s sleep patterns were disrupted, and her circadian rhythms fluctuated under the artificial lighting.
To cope with the psychological challenges, Atrice utilized various strategies. She practiced mindfulness and meditation to anchor herself in the present moment. She also engaged in physical exercise to maintain her physical and mental well-being. Atrice found solace in writing, documenting her thoughts, experiences, and insights in a journal.
As the days turned into weeks and then months, Atrice experienced profound introspection. Stripped of external distractions, she delved into the depths of her consciousness, exploring her fears, desires, and the essence of her being. Time, once a tangible construct, dissolved into a subjective experience. Atrice contemplated the nature of existence, the interplay of solitude and connection, and the importance of embracing uncertainty.
On April 4, 2023, as the designated 500-day mark approached, Atrice Flamini emerged from the Time Cave. Her journey had come to an end, but the impact of her seclusion would resonate far beyond those dark caverns. Atrice, now dubbed the “Solitary Sage,” captivated the world with her insights and reflections on the human condition.
She shared how the absence of external stimuli had heightened her sensory perception, allowing her to notice subtle details and appreciate the beauty in simplicity. Atrice emphasized the importance of human connection, highlighting how isolation can erode one’s sense of self and well-being. She urged society to cultivate empathy, compassion, and meaningful relationships.
Atrice’s experience also shed light on the malleability of time perception. Without external markers, the passage of time became a fluid concept, subjectively experienced rather than objectively measured. She challenged conventional notions of time and encouraged a deeper exploration of its intricacies.
Flamini’s odyssey in the Time Cave left an indelible mark on her and the world. Her courage, resilience, and profound insights into the human psyche continue to inspire others to embrace the beauty of solitude, cherish connections, and question the constructs that shape our understanding of time and existence.
Because there is no sunlight, it is impossible to distinguish between day and night in the cave. People who are impatient will definitely live like a year, feeling empty, lonely and even irritable. Fortunately, Atrice was well prepared – she brought paper, pens and many books with her, and also brought wool into the cave. She passed the time by writing diaries, drawing, reading and knitting every day.
Despite this, Atrice encountered many unexpected situations. On her first day living in the cave, she was attacked by mosquitoes. The humid climate is the most likely to breed mosquitoes, or perhaps the overhead light source attracted swarms of flies to fly in and land on Atrice. The buzzing sound made her feel upset. Not only that, Atrice also saw a scene of flies breeding maggots. This disgusting scene made her almost vomit on the spot… On the
first night, Atrice’s face and arms were swollen by mosquito bites. She couldn’t help but said to herself: “These damn bugs, but you are my only partners now!” Through the surveillance camera, the team members found that Atrice’s mood was still optimistic, and they gradually felt relieved.
After gradually adapting to the harsh environment for half a month, Atrice began to enjoy alone time. It made her feel good to be away from the crowd and not have to deal with the cumbersome interpersonal relationships. She can sing as she pleases without worrying about being teased and out of tune; she can also dance at any time without caring about her stiff waist. She even wrote the first poem in her life: Cave, you are not my house, but you are my shelter. In the dark night, facing the bare walls, I sang the songs I had heard in my mother’s arms in my childhood…
When she first entered the cave, Atrice could still roughly estimate the passage of time. But being continuously exposed to the sun and without any reference, she gradually lost the ability to judge time. Two months later, Atrice gave up counting time completely. She wrote in her diary that day: “I stopped recording time, and since then I have lost my perception of time.”
There is no concept of time in the cave life. After experiencing the initial casualness, problems gradually appeared. About four months later, when Atrice woke up one day, there were some messy and trivial sounds in her head, as if someone was talking. She tried hard to hear the sounds clearly, but she couldn’t. She shouted into the depths of the empty cave: “Who are you? Who is talking to me?”
The team monitors immediately realized that Atrice had auditory hallucinations. Although everyone is worried about her mental state, according to the experimental requirements, no one can interfere. Looking at the increasingly irritable Atrice, the research team was worried that she would have the same overreaction as Forlini. Daladi even suggested: “Maybe we should terminate the experiment early.” As soon as the words came out, he was immediately criticized by the member team. Objection: “This is a normal reaction after a person has been alone for a long time. We need to give Atrice time to gradually adapt.” The
research team’s prediction was correct. After Atrice stayed in the cave for 200 days, the stress reaction of hearing hallucinations finally disappeared. But at the same time, she began to talk to herself, often to imaginary objects. Sometimes, she recalled her naughty childhood memories to her “mother”; sometimes, she seemed to be exchanging experimental results with her team members; and a few times, she even “saw” the boy she first fell in love with 30 years ago and confided in him. Heartfelt, until tears burst down her face…
Returning to the world
Under the difficult living conditions, food supplies once every few days became what Atrice looked forward to most. Under extreme circumstances, usually inconspicuous food becomes extremely delicious. An egg, an apple, and an occasional bag of potato chips can make Atrice dance with joy in the cave.
In her alone time, Atrice learned to enjoy silence. Loneliness did not overwhelm her. She knew that when she was alone, she had to be friendly with herself, otherwise she would be defeated by panic and it would be difficult to stay conscious. During more than a year in the cave, Atrice read more than sixty books. She also insisted on recording her daily life in the cave in her diary, and unknowingly wrote more than 80,000 words. In addition to keeping a diary, Atrice also does exercise every day. She couldn’t run in the small cave, so she lay on the ground and stretched her whole body. Every time they saw Atrice’s original movements on the surveillance camera and heard her constant cheering sounds from her mouth, the members of the research team were convinced that she would be able to complete this challenge.
Under everyone’s prayers and protection, Atrice silently kept her 500-day promise. Due to being disconnected from the outside world, she missed many major social events. When Elizabeth II passed away and Charles took over as the new monarch, Atrice was still in the dark cave, enduring extreme loneliness, unaware that everything had changed outside. To this end, the research team made an appointment with doctors and psychologists for Atrice in advance, because after she came out of the cave and returned to society, she faced not only a change in lifestyle, but also a reintegration with civilization. .
On the morning of April 4, 2023, Atrice was still sleeping when she was suddenly awakened by the sound of a heavy object falling to the ground. She suddenly raised her head and saw Daladi – the first person to appear in front of her in 500 days. After Atrice confirmed that this was not her hallucination, she suddenly became nervous and said, “What? The experiment failed? Look, I’m fine, and the experiment can continue!” Daladi smiled and stretched out his hand: “Congratulations. You, madam, you succeeded, today is the 500th day of the experiment.” Atrice waved her hands repeatedly: “No, no, no, I haven’t finished reading my book yet!” Despite this, Atrice
still was taken out of the cave. Before leaving, she took one last look back at the place where she had lived for 500 days, and even felt a little reluctant to leave.
Knowing that Atrice was about to “come out”, her relatives, friends and team members all stood guard at the entrance of the cave to witness this miraculous moment. Team members said Atrice may have broken the Guinness World Record for the longest time a person has survived in an underground cave – the previous record was 69 days when she was trapped 688 meters underground due to a mining accident in 2010. Created by 33 Chilean and Bolivian miners.
After climbing out of the cave along the ladder, Atrice seemed to be in good condition with a smile on her face. However, because she stayed in a small space for too long, she had poor balance when walking and needed help. When asked by a reporter if she had ever thought about pressing the emergency button and leaving the cave during these 500 days, Atrice replied firmly: “Never, to be honest, I don’t even want to leave!” Throwing in the face of the crowd When asked many questions, Atrice continued to answer: “Although caves are safe, they are not a good place for the human brain. Because people cannot see daylight, they have no way of knowing how time passes. Not really. Time passes faster or slower, but time no longer flows, because it is always 4 o’clock in the morning before your eyes.” “I haven’t taken a shower for 500 days, and I haven’t talked to anyone, except talking to myself. I am still stuck on November 20, 2021, and know nothing about the current world…”
The news of Atrice’s “return to the world” immediately detonated the media, and netizens also discussed her experience. . Some people say that Atrice is a warrior, and these 500 days of cave challenge prove the strength of human beings. But some people say that Atrice was just imprisoned in an extreme environment and that everything she did was meaningless.
No matter how others evaluate it, these 500 days are an extremely precious experience for Atrice. In her view, many things are destined to be difficult to measure by worldly standards. Breaking through yourself is the meaning of the challenge itself.