CAVE DE LOMBRIVES, FRANCE – Have you ever wondered what it would be like to disconnect from a hyperconnected world and hide in a dark cave for 40 days?
Fifteen people in France did just that, coming out of a science experiment on Saturday to say that time seemed to pass more slowly in their cavernous underground home 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 Lombrives Cave to a round of applause and bathed in the light while wearing special glasses to protect their eyes after so long in the darkness.
“It was like an urgent pause,” said Marina Lançon, 33, one of the seven female members of the experiment, adding that she didn’t feel there was a rush to do anything. .
Although she wished she could have been in the cave for a few more days, she said she was happy to feel the wind blowing in her face again and to hear the birds singing in the trees of the French Pyrenees. 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 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 was 100%. The cave dwellers had no contact with the outside world, no updates on the pandemic, or communication with friends or family.
Scientists at the Human Adaption Institute leading the $ 1.5 million “Deep Time” project say the experience will help them better understand how people adapt to radical 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 of the participants, “in our heads, we had entered the cave 30 days ago. ”
At least one member of the team estimated the time underground at 23 days.
Johan François, 37, math teacher and sailing instructor, ran 10-kilometer circles in the cave to keep fit. He sometimes had “visceral urges” to leave.
With no daily obligations and no children, the challenge was “to enjoy the present moment without ever thinking about what will happen in an hour, in two hours,” he said.
In partnership with laboratories in France and Switzerland, scientists monitored the sleep patterns, social interactions and behavioral reactions of the 15 members via sensors. One of the sensors was a tiny thermometer inside a capsule that participants swallowed like a pill. He measured body temperature and transmitted data to a computer until he was naturally expelled.
Team members tracked their biological clocks to know when to wake up, fall asleep, and eat. They counted their days not in hours but in cycles of sleep.
Scientists monitoring the participants entered the cave on Friday to let the research subjects know they would be coming out soon.
“It’s really interesting to watch how this group synchronizes,” 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 difficult, he said.
Although the participants seemed visibly tired on Saturday, two-thirds expressed the wish to remain underground a little longer in order to complete the group projects started during the expedition, told the AP Benoit Mauvieux, a chronobiologist involved in the research.
“Our future as humans on this planet will change,” Clot said after his emergence. “We have to learn to better understand how our brains are able to find new solutions, whatever the situation.”