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Spanish climber ends 500 days of isolation in underground cave

By Agence France-Presse Published Apr 15, 2023 10:23 am

A 50-year-old Spanish mountain climber emerged Friday from an underground cave where she spent 500 days in seclusion as part of an experiment on the effects of isolation on the human body.

Wearing dark sunglasses, Beatriz Flamini smiled and embraced family members who had gathered to greet her as she climbed out of the cave near Motril in southern Spain.

"I haven't talked to anyone for a year and a half, only myself," the experienced mountaineer and solo climber told reporters, calling the experience "excellent, unbeatable".

Flamini began her challenge on November 21, 2021—before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and while the world was still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She remained 70 meters (230 feet) underground, except for a week when she was forced to leave the cave because an internet router that allowed her to call for help in an emergency broke down.

While the problem was being fixed, Flamini remained in isolation in a tent, she and members of her team told daily newspaper El Pais and other Spanish media.

"I don't know what has happened in the world... for me it is still November 21, 2021," she told reporters after leaving the cave.

Flamini said she spent her time reading with the aid of artificial lights, exercising, and knitting woolly hats.

She was monitored by a technical team, who left food at an exchange point in the cave without having contact with her.

Flamini had two cameras to document her experience, which will be turned into a documentary by Spanish production company Dokumalia.

"There have been many challenges of this type, but none with all the rules that were set," said David Reyes of the Andalusian Federation of Speleology, who was in charge of her security.

"Being alone and in total isolation, without contact with the outside, without (natural) light, without time references," he told reporters.

Spanish Tourism Minister Hector Gomez called it an "extreme endurance test", which he hoped would have "great value" for science.

Flamini said one of the toughest moments came when the cave was invaded by flies, but she "never" considered abandoning the challenge.

"There have been difficult moments, and it is true that there have been very beautiful moments, and both are what made it possible to carry one," she said.

"I got along very well with myself," she added.