The group lives forty days in a damp cave in the Pyrenees, in the name of science

The group lives forty days in a damp cave in the Pyrenees, in the name of science

The fifteen French who survived in a damp cave in the Pyrenees.AP image

They came wearing special sunglasses to get used to the daylight: seven men and seven women, led by expedition leader Christian Klot. Groggy and somewhat pale, but all healthy.

the mission Deep time It feels like a TV series format: Surviving forty days in a cave 100 meters deep, without a phone, without any awareness of day, night, or time at all. In fact, it was a science experiment on people’s behavior under extreme conditions – inspired by lockdowns last year.

The initiator Clute made human adaptation the work of his life. He made several expeditions, always under extreme conditions, to investigate the behavior. For example, he spent a month in the Iranian desert in Dasht Lot, at a temperature of 70 ° C.

This time he found inspiration closer to home: Many people feel overwhelmed by the limitations of Corona, according to research by its Institute for Human Adaptation, among others. They lose a sense of time and have difficulty making long-term plans. What would happen if those circumstances were to magnify?


Scientists – from behavioral therapists to brain researchers – carefully monitored the participants. Weight, temperature, and cortisol level. Everything was measured. Meanwhile, the group received all kinds of tests and questionnaires about the sense of smell, hearing, feeling and memory. The mission, which costs a total of 1.2 million euros, will achieve at least a year of research work.

One participant described the experience afterwards “as if I pressed the pause button.” She liked to stay a little longer – like most of the others, she was shocked when they were taken 40 days later. Clute explained to the cameras that his party mates were soaked in sunlight: “It felt like thirty days at the most.” No participant expected it to be until day 23.

It turns out that is one of the biggest challenges: living together when everyone has their own sense of time. Participants followed their own rhythm: eat when you feel hungry, and sleep when you are tired. But there had to be cooperation, too. For example, to generate electricity by bike. Or go down daily by cables to collect water. Clot: “Running projects and organizing tasks together is especially difficult if you can’t agree on time together.”

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