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Deep Time Experiment: Living Isolated In A French Cave For 40 Days

Deep Time Experiment: Living Isolated In A French Cave For 40 Days

On March 14, 2021, a group of 15 curious and intrepid souls retreated into the depths of Lombrives Cave in the department of Ariège in southwestern France as part of the unique Deep Time experiment. Since Lombrives is a popular tourist attraction this in itself was not unusual. What makes this particular expedition unique, however, is its purpose and intended length. These 15 individuals aren’t tourists or spelunkers, but volunteers in the Deep Time experiment.

The volunteers have agreed to live deep inside the cave for 40 days and nights, without their watches, mobile phones, or any other devices that might connect them with the outside world. They will remain in the cave continuously throughout the duration of this experiment, below the surface of the earth with no exposure to natural light.

The men and women who’ve volunteered for the experiment are between the ages of 27 and 50, come from various geographical and occupational backgrounds, and are all in good physical and mental health.

The broad purpose of the Deep Time experiment is to monitor and analyze the effects of living underground for an extended period on the human mind and body.

Christian Clot is the leader (and a participant) of the unique Deep Time experiment, which began on March 14, 2021 deep in a French cave. (Pintupi / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The Deep Time Experiment: Extreme Environment Effects

This unique and enthralling experiment is the brainchild of French-Swiss explorer (and study participant) Christian Clot, who founded the Institute for Human Adaptation in 2013. Clot says he was inspired to sponsor this project by observing the impact of COVID-19-related isolation on people’s lives.

Clot has a long-standing interest in studying how extreme or unusual environments affect human perception and functioning. He has personally spent time living in some of the harshest climates on earth, where he was exposed to extreme temperature and weather conditions. His Deep Time experiment represents a variation on the same theme, reflecting Clot’s fascination with learning more about how human beings respond and adjust when the parameters of normal experience are dramatically altered.

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“Three separate living spaces have been fitted out, one for sleeping, one for living and one for carrying out studies on the topography of the place, especially the flora and fauna,” Clot told the French publication Le Parisien . The latter activity will help keep study participants mentally active and engaged during the mission, to prevent the impact of mental frustration or sheer boredom from distorting the integrity of the study.

Approximately four tons of living supplies have been stockpiled inside the cave, along with a pedal-driven dynamo that will be used to produce electricity for artificial light. Water will be harvested from the interior of the cave, eliminating the need for it to be pumped or hauled in.

Conditions inside the cave will be cool and damp and not particularly comfortable. The temperature in the living areas will remain at a steady 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius), while humidity levels will hover around 95 percent. It will be up to the volunteers to dress accordingly.

Throughout their time underground, the physiological states and reactions of the volunteers will be closely monitored by a team of scientists deployed on the surface near the cave entrance. In the words of the study organizers :

“Clad in sensors, with the most up-to-date research tools at their disposal, participants will undertake a comprehensive and rigorous study protocol to assess how their brains and bodies manage and generate a new time synchronization , space and society.”

As for practical applications, the researchers who’ve joined Clot’s project say the results they obtain could be useful for scientists and engineers involved in the planning of future space missions. Moreover, the Deep Time experiment could be relevant to those who want to know more about the impact of prolonged isolation on submarine personnel and mining teams as well.

Living deep in a cave with no natural light is similar to living in outer space, deep-sea or mining environments and they all affect our biological clock (shown here) and our circadian sleep rhythms. (NoNameGYassineMrabetTalk fixed by Addicted04 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Previous Extreme Environment Researchers And Focus Points

There have been other experiments that involved people staying underground for extended periods of time. For example, French geologist Michel Siffre spent six months living in a cave in 1972, totally isolated from the outside world with no capacity to keep track of time.

During this and other experiments, he discovered that underground living could cause a significant change in the operations of a person’s circadian cycle , which governs how long someone sleeps and stays awake. Over time Siffre’s waking-and-sleep cycle was gradually elongated, so by the end of his time underground he would be staying awake and active for 36 hours while sleeping for 12 to 14. This change distorted his sense of the passage in time in general, making him believe that much less time had passed than actually had when his associates notified him it was time to leave the cave.

Like most experiments, Siffre’s efforts focused primarily on the biological effects of time distortion and sensory deprivation. But the French Deep Time experiment is far more comprehensive in its goals and areas of focus.

The Deep Time research team will study the combined impact of timelessness and sensory deprivation on:

· Cognition. How does the brain conceive and experience time, and how will that conception change and evolve as this unique experiment unfolds?

· Psychology. How will people be affected psychologically by limited sensory input, time distortions, and spending extended time with strangers is a confined environment?

· Epigenetics. Will prolonged exposure to an enclosed environment cause changes in genetic expression and activity?

· Chronobiology. What effect will living underground continuously have on sleep rhythms and physiological functioning in general?

· Sociology and Ethology . How will the study participants organize themselves, socially and spatially?

“This experiment is a world first,” explained neuroscientist Etienne Koechlin of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, during an interview with the Belgian news site 7sur7 . “Until now, all missions of this type focused on the study of the physiological rhythms of the body, but never on the impact of this type of temporal rupture on the cognitive and emotional functions of the human being.”

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The scope of this study is wide and ambitious and reflects a truly broad range of research interests. The Deep Time experiment is being supported by multiple research institutes and laboratories in France, Switzerland, China, and additional European nations, which will be sharing data and the results of their analyses for the benefit of the entire scientific community.

For millennia, monks and other spiritual seekers have used cave environments to find deep tranquility and eternal wisdom. ( Sutipond Stock / Adobe Stock)

The History Of Seeking Timeless Wisdom In Dark, Quiet Places

While this isn’t mentioned by Clot or the scientists involved in the experiment, the results it produces could also be highly relevant for those who study (or are fascinated by) altered states of consciousness.

In ancient Greece (and China), sages, seers, oracles, and even philosophers frequently retreated into caves for prolonged sessions of contemplation. They relied on the sensory deprivation and sense of timelessness to modify or redirect their conscious awareness in ways that would give them access to divine wisdom, prophetic images, or hidden metaphysical truths.

Meanwhile, many scholars and researchers (like South African archaeologist David Lewis-Williams ) who’ve scrutinized the geometrical and abstract imagery in Paleolithic cave art are convinced it emerged from perceptions associated with profound shifts in conscious states. These changes were caused primarily by the ingestion of hallucinogens but were deepened by the sensory deprivation experienced inside caves (hence the choice of that environment for the paintings).

If any of the participants in this new study report strange dreams, hallucinations, or visionary experiences of any types, researchers and adventurers who explore altered states of consciousness will certainly take notice.


Deep Time study: French volunteers leave cave after 40 days in isolation

The 15 participants lived in the Lombrives cave in south-west France with no phones, clocks or sunlight.

They slept in tents, made their own electricity, and had no contact with the outside world.

The project aimed to test how people respond to losing their sense of time and space.

The so-called Deep Time experiment came to an end on Saturday, allowing the eight men and seven women, aged 27 to 50, who took part to leave the cave.

Scientists overseeing the project entered the cave a day earlier to tell them the project was nearing its end.

Smiling but appearing dazed, the group left their voluntary isolation to a round of applause. They wore sunglasses to give their eyes time to adjust to the sunlight.

The director of the project, French-Swiss explorer Christian Clot, said time seemed to pass more slowly in the cave.

One volunteer, Marina Lançon, 33, said the experiment "was like pressing pause" on life.

During their isolation, the group had to organise tasks without being able to use a measure of time to create deadlines.

Instead, they had to rely on their body clocks and sleep cycles to structure their days.

In the cave, they had few modern comforts at their disposal. For example, volunteers had to generate their own electricity with a pedal bike and draw water from a well 45 m (146 ft) below the earth.

The scientists behind the project say it will help them understand how people can adapt to extreme living conditions.

The brain activity and cognitive function of volunteers was analysed before they entered the cave, to gather data for comparative studies after they left.

The purpose of the study has particular relevance during the coronavirus pandemic, a time when lockdown measures have confined millions of people to isolation.

"Our future as humans on this planet will evolve," Mr Clot said. "We must learn to better understand how our brains are capable of finding new solutions, whatever the situation."


France's Deep Time Project ends after 40 days isolation group return to real life after being cut off from family, friends and pandemic

Ever wonder what it would feel like to unplug from a hyperconnected world and hide away in a dark cave for 40 days?

Fifteen people in France did just that, emerging Saturday from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode in southwestern France, where they were deprived of clocks and light.

With big smiles on their pale faces, the 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

“It was like pressing pause,” said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of the seven female members in the experiment, adding she didn’t feel there was a rush to do anything.

Although she wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing on her face again and hear the birds sing in the trees of the French Pyrénées. And she doesn’t plan to open her smartphone for a few more days, hoping to avoid a “too brutal” return to real life.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave as part of the Deep Time project. There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100 percent. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communications with friends or family.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the 1.2 million-euro (US$1.5 million) “Deep Time” project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments.

As expected, those in the cave lost their sense of time.

“And here we are! We just left after 40 days . For us it was a real surprise,” said project director Christian Clot, adding for most participants, “in our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.”

At least one team member estimated the time underground at 23 days.

Johan Francois, 37, a math teacher and sailing instructor, ran 10-kilometre circles in the cave to stay fit. He sometimes had “visceral urges” to leave.

With no daily obligations and no children around, the challenge was “to profit from the present moment without ever thinking about what will happen in one hour, in two hours,” he said.

In partnership with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15 member’s sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioural reactions via sensors. One sensor was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill. It measured body temperatures and transmitted data to a computer until it was expelled naturally.

The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

On Friday, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave to let the research subjects know they would be coming out soon.

“It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronizes themselves,” Clot said earlier in a recording from inside the cave. Working together on projects and organizing tasks without being able to set a time to meet was especially challenging, he said.

Although the participants looked visibly tired Saturday, two-thirds expressed a desire to remain underground a bit longer in order to finish group projects started during the expedition, Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research, told The Associated Press.

“Our future as humans on this planet will evolve,” Clot said after emerging. “We must learn to better understand how our brains are capable of finding new solutions, whatever the situation.”

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Out of the cave: French isolation study ends after 40 days

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Members of the French team that participated in the "Deep Time" study, emerge from the Lombrives Cave after 40 days underground in Ussat les Bains, France, Saturday, April 24, 2021. After 40 days in voluntary isolation, 15 people participating in a scientific experiment have emerged from a vast cave in southwestern France. Eight men and seven women lived in the dark, damp depths of the Lombrives cave in the Pyrenees to help researchers understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments. They had no clocks, no sunlight and no contact with the world above. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)

LOMBRIVES CAVE – Ever wonder what it would feel like to unplug from a hyperconnected world and hide away in a dark cave for 40 days?

Fifteen people in France did just that, emerging Saturday from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode in southwestern France, where they were deprived of clocks and light.

With big smiles on their pale faces, the 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

“It was like pressing pause,” said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of the seven female members in the experiment, adding she didn't feel there was a rush to do anything.

Although she wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing on her face again and hear the birds sing in the trees of the French Pyrénées. And she doesn't plan to open her smartphone for a few more days, hoping to avoid a “too brutal” return to real life.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave as part of the Deep Time project. There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communications with friends or family.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the 1.2 million-euro $1.5 million) “Deep Time” project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments.


Out of the cave: French isolation study ends after 40 days

Ever wonder what it would feel like to unplug from a hyperconnected world and hide away in a cave for a few weeks? Fifteen people in France found out.

After 40 days in voluntary isolation in a dark, damp and vast cave, eight men and seven women who took part in a scientific experiment emerged Saturday from their self-segregation in the Pyrenees.

With big smiles on their pale faces, the 15 participants exited the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light of day while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave without a sense of time. There were no clocks and no sunlight inside, where the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic or any communication with friends and family above ground.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the 1.2 million-euro $1.5 million) “Deep Time” project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments, something much of the world can relate to because of coronavirus pandemic.

In partnership with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15-member group's sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioral reactions via sensors. One of the sensors was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill. The capsules measure body temperature and transmit data to a portable computer until they are expelled naturally.

The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

On Friday, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave for the first time since the experiment started. They said many of the people in the research group miscalculated how long they had been in the cave and thought they had another week to 10 days to go.

“It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronizes themselves,” project director Christian Clot said in a recording done from inside the cave. Working together on projects and organizing tasks without being able to set a time to meet was especially challenging, he said.

Although the participants looked visibly tired, two-thirds of them expressed a desire to remain underground a bit longer in order to finish group projects started during the expedition, Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research, told The Associated Press.


Out of the cave: French isolation study ends after 40 days

Members of the French team that participated in the "Deep Time" study pose for a photo after exiting the Lombrives Cave in Ussat les Bains, France, Saturday. After 40 days in voluntary isolation, 15 people participating in a scientific experiment have emerged from a vast cave in southwestern France. Eight men and seven women lived in the dark, damp depths of the Lombrives cave in the Pyrenees to help researchers understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments. They had no clocks, no sunlight and no contact with the world above.

Members of the French team that participated in the "Deep Time" study, emerge from the Lombrives Cave after 40 days underground in Ussat les Bains, France, Saturday.

LOMBRIVES CAVE, France — Ever wonder what it would feel like to unplug from a hyperconnected world and hide away in a dark cave for 40 days?

Fifteen people in France did just that, emerging Saturday from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode, where they were deprived of clocks and light.

With big smiles on their pale faces, the 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light of day while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

“It was like pressing pause,” said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of the seven female team members in the experiment, adding she didn't feel there was a rush to do anything.

Although she wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing on her face again and hear the birds sing in the green trees of the French Pyrénées.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave without a sense of time as part of the Deep Time project. There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communication with friends or family.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the $1.5-million “Deep Time” project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments, something much of the world can relate to because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As expected, those in the cave lost their sense of time.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. &rarr

“And here we are! We just left after 40 days . For us it was a real surprise," said project director Christian Clot, adding for the majority of the participants, “in our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.”

At least one team member estimated the time underground at 23 days.

In partnership with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15-member group's sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioral reactions via sensors. One of the sensors was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill. The capsules measure body temperature and transmit data to a portable computer until they are expelled naturally.

The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

On Friday, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave to let the research subjects know they would be coming out soon. They said many in the group miscalculated and thought they had another week to 10 days to go.

“It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronizes themselves,” Clot said earlier in a recording from inside the cave. Working together on projects and organizing tasks without being able to set a time to meet was especially challenging, he said.

Although the participants looked visibly tired, two-thirds expressed a desire to remain underground a bit longer in order to finish group projects started during the expedition, Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research, told The Associated Press.


Ever wondered what it would be like to unplug from the world and hide away in a dark cave for 40 days?

Fifteen people did just that for a scientific experiment in a Lombrives cave in southwestern France.

After camping without clocks and light, they emerged* saying time passed differently underground.

With big smiles lighting up their pale faces, the 15 volunteers left the cave wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

&ldquoIt was like pressing pause,&rdquo said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of seven female members in the experiment, adding she didn&rsquot feel in a rush to do anything.

While she said she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, Lançon said she was happy to feel the wind on her face and hear the birds sing in the trees. And she doesn&rsquot plan to open her smartphone for a few more days to delay the return to normal life.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave as part of the Deep Time project.

There was no sunlight, the temperature was just 10 degrees and the relative humidity* stood at 100 per cent. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and no communication with friends and family.

After 40 days in voluntary isolation, the 15 participants emerged. While inside the cave, they had no clocks, no sunlight and no contact with the world above. Picture: AP Photo/Renata Brito.

Scientists leading the project said the experiment would help them better understand how people adapt to drastic* changes in living conditions and environments.

For one, those in the cave lost their sense of time.

&ldquoAnd here we are! We just left after 40 days &hellip For us it was a real surprise,&rdquo said project director Christian Clot. &ldquoIn our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.&rdquo

At least one team member estimated the time underground at 23 days.

Johan Francois, 37, a maths teacher and sailing instructor, ran 10km circles in the cave to stay fit. He sometimes had &ldquovisceral* urges&rdquo to leave.

Without daily commitments and children, the challenge was &ldquoto profit from the present moment without ever thinking about what will happen in one hour, in two hours,&rdquo he said.

Working with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15 members&rsquo sleep patterns, social interactions and behaviour via sensors that sent data to computers.

Those in the cave followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days in sleep cycles instead of hours.

Members of the French team that participated in the ‘Deep Time’ French study celebrate as they emerge from the Lombrives cave after 40 days underground. Picture: AP Photo/Renata Brito.

The day before their departure, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave to let the research subjects know they would be leaving soon.

&ldquoIt&rsquos really interesting to observe how this group synchronises* themselves,&rdquo Clot said while inside the cave.

Working together and organising tasks without being able to set times was especially challenging, he said.

Although participants looked tired when they came out, two-thirds said they wanted to remain underground a bit longer to finish group projects started inside, according to Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research.

  • emerged: came out, exited, left
  • relative humidity: water vapour in the air, compared to how much it could hold at that temperature.
  • drastic: extreme, radical
  • visceral: strong gut instinct, deep inner feelings
  • synchronise: happen at the same time or rate

What was the name of the cave and where was it?

How many days were the volunteers in the cave?

How long did some participants think they had been in the cave?

What did scientists monitor and how?

What proportion of participants wanted to stay underground?

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Cave People
Unplugging from the world in this deep cave experiment would have lots of flow-on effects on both mind and body, which is what the project wants to research.

Work with a classmate to create a table in quadrants on how unplugging from the world and living in a cave would impact your mind and body.

In the top left quadrant, list physical effects on the body.

Directly below that, list aspects of mind and body could have improved while being &lsquounplugged&rsquo.

In the top right quadrant, list mental effects on the mind.

Directly below that, list aspects of mind and body may have deteriorated or suffered while being &lsquounplugged&rsquo.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
For the 15 people that took part in this deep cave experiment in France, what aspects of their life may change after completing the experiment?

What less severe ways could you suggest to give our mind and bodies a break every so often to &lsquounplug&rsquo from the world?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.


Out of the cave: French isolation study ends after 40 days

Members of the French team that participated in the “Deep Time” study, emerge from the Lombrives Cave after 40 days underground in Ussat les Bains, France, Saturday, April 24, 2021. After 40 days in voluntary isolation, 15 people participating in a scientific experiment have emerged from a vast cave in southwestern France. Eight men and seven women lived in the dark, damp depths of the Lombrives cave in the Pyrenees to help researchers understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments. They had no clocks, no sunlight and no contact with the world above. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)

LOMBRIVES CAVE, France (AP) — Ever wonder what it would feel like to unplug from a hyperconnected world and hide away in a dark cave for 40 days?

Fifteen people in France did just that, emerging Saturday from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode in southwestern France, where they were deprived of clocks and light.

With big smiles on their pale faces, the 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

“It was like pressing pause,” said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of the seven female members in the experiment, adding she didn’t feel there was a rush to do anything.

Although she wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing on her face again and hear the birds sing in the trees of the French Pyrénées. And she doesn’t plan to open her smartphone for a few more days, hoping to avoid a “too brutal” return to real life.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave as part of the Deep Time project. There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communications with friends or family.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the 1.2 million-euro $1.5 million) “Deep Time” project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments.

As expected, those in the cave lost their sense of time.

“And here we are! We just left after 40 days … For us it was a real surprise,” said project director Christian Clot, adding for most participants, “in our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.”

At least one team member estimated the time underground at 23 days.

Johan Francois, 37, a math teacher and sailing instructor, ran 10-kilometer circles in the cave to stay fit. He sometimes had “visceral urges” to leave.

With no daily obligations and no children around, the challenge was “to profit from the present moment without ever thinking about what will happen in one hour, in two hours,” he said.

In partnership with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15 member’s sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioral reactions via sensors. One sensor was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill. It measured body temperatures and transmitted data to a computer until it was expelled naturally.

The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

On Friday, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave to let the research subjects know they would be coming out soon.

“It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronizes themselves,” Clot said earlier in a recording from inside the cave. Working together on projects and organizing tasks without being able to set a time to meet was especially challenging, he said.

Although the participants looked visibly tired Saturday, two-thirds expressed a desire to remain underground a bit longer in order to finish group projects started during the expedition, Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research, told The AP.

“Our future as humans on this planet will evolve,” Clot said after emerging. “We must learn to better understand how our brains are capable of finding new solutions, whatever the situation.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Hide Out Now

A group of 15 people taking part in an experiment where they cut themselves off from the world have re-emerged from a cave in France after 40 days.

Leaving their cave dwelling on Saturday, the group from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode, where they were deprived of clocks and light.

The 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light of day while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark.

'It was like pressing pause,' said 33-year-old Marina Lançon, one of the seven female team members in the experiment, adding she didn't feel there was a rush to do anything.

A group of 15 people taking part in an experiment where they cut themselves off from the world have re-emerged from a cave in France after 40 days

Leaving their cave dwelling on Saturday, the group from a scientific experiment to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground abode, where they were deprived of clocks and light

Although she wished she could have stayed in the cave a few days longer, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing on her face again and hear the birds sing in the green trees of the French Pyrénées.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave without a sense of time as part of the Deep Time project.

There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communication with friends or family.

Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the 1.2 million-euro (ٟ.05 million) 'Deep Time' project say the experiment will help them better understand how people adapt to drastic changes in living conditions and environments, something much of the world can relate to because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For 40 days and 40 nights, the group lived in and explored the cave without a sense of time as part of the Deep Time project

The 15 left their voluntary isolation in the Lombrives cave to a round of applause and basked in the light of day while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the dark

Despite having been underground for 40 days, some members of the group had lost their sense of time, with at least one member estimating they had spent 25 days in the cave.

'And here we are! We just left after 40 days . For us it was a real surprise,' said project director Christian Clot, adding for the majority of the participants, 'in our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.'

In partnership with labs in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the 15-member group’s sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioral reactions via sensors.

One of the sensors was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill.

The capsules measure body temperature and transmit data to a portable computer until they are expelled naturally.

There was no sunlight inside, the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) and the relative humidity stood at 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic nor any communication with friends or family

Despite having been underground for 40 days, some members of the group had lost their sense of time, with at least one member estimating they had spent 25 days in the cave

The team members followed their biological clocks to know when to wake up, go to sleep and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in sleep cycles.

On Friday, scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave to let the research subjects know they would be coming out soon.

They said many in the group miscalculated and thought they had another week to 10 days to go.

“It’s really interesting to observe how this group synchronizes themselves,” Clot said earlier in a recording from inside the cave.

Working together on projects and organizing tasks without being able to set a time to meet was especially challenging, he said.

Although the participants looked visibly tired, two-thirds expressed a desire to remain underground a bit longer in order to finish group projects started during the expedition, Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research, told The Associated Press.


Next level lockdown: French group goes underground in cave for six weeks to study effects of acute isolation

Since Sunday night, 15 men and women are living in the vast Lombrives cave in the Pyrenees mountains south of Toulouse for an experiment dubbed 'Deep Time,' led by the French-Swiss explorer Christian Clot

A picture taken on March 14, 2021 shows the entrance of the Lombrives cave in Ussat, where a Swiss-French explorer-researcher and 14 volunteers are about to spend 40 days as part of a scientific experiment. AFP

Tarascon-sur-Ariège: A year after France entered uncharted territory with its first coronavirus lockdown, a small group of volunteers has embarked on more extreme confinement: nearly six weeks underground, with no notion of time, to study the effects of acute isolation.

Since Sunday night, 15 men and women are living in the vast Lombrives cave in the Pyrenees mountains south of Toulouse for an experiment dubbed "Deep Time," led by the French-Swiss explorer Christian Clot.

For 40 days their home is a cavernous complex below the Earth's surface, deprived of phones, watches or natural light. But they do have their own tents for a minimum of privacy.

"Three separate living spaces have been set up: one for sleeping, one for living, and one for carrying out topography studies, in particular for fauna and flora," Clot told journalists a few hours before entering the cave.

The main subject of study, however, will be the seven men and seven women, aged 27 to 50, as well as Clot, who must adapt to a constant temperature of 12 degrees Celsius (54 Fahrenheit) and 95 percent humidity.

They have been fitted out with sensors to allow monitoring by around a dozen scientists hoping to learn how humans respond without the usual spatiotemporal frames of reference.

"This experiment is the first of its kind," said Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neurosciences department at the Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris, who is part of the monitoring team.

"Until now, these types of missions aimed to study the body's physiological rhythms, but never the impact of this type of disconnection from time on a human being's cognitive and emotional functions," he said.

- 'Not easy' -
The volunteers, who are not receiving any compensation, are from all across France and include a jeweller, an anaesthesiologist, a security guard and a steeplejack.

Four tons of provisions and other equipment have been loaded into the cave so that the group can live in complete autonomy -- water will come from a well on-site, and a bike-powered generator will provide electricity.

The bulk of the financing for the 1.2 million euro ($1.4 million) project came from Clot's Human Adaptation Institute, with the help of some private and public partnerships.

Arnaud Burel, a 29-year-old biologist, said he signed up "to experience this life removed from time, something that's impossible to do on the outside with our computers and cellphones that are constantly reminding us of our appointments and obligations."

"Forty days in your life, it's just a drop in the ocean, isn't it?" he said.

He nonetheless admitted that being cooped up with a small group might prove difficult.

"It's not easy to live with 14 people you don't know, in a closed space – communication is going to be the key," he predicted.

Fortunately, the volunteers can leave at any time if the experience proves too much.