A 50-year-old Spanish extreme athlete has emerged from spending 500 days living 70-metres deep in a cave outside Granada with no contact with the outside world, in an experiment closely monitored by scientists seeking to learn more about the capacities of the human mind and circadian rhythms.
Beatriz Flamini, an elite sportswoman, mountaineer and climber, is said by her support team to have broken a world record for longest time spent in a cave. She was 48 when she went into the cave, and celebrated two birthdays alone underground.
She began her challenge on Saturday, November 20, 2021 - before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the resultant cost of living crisis, the end of Spain's lengthy COVID mask requirement and the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
Media coverage of her emergence into the light of spring in southern Spain on Friday was limited so as not to overwhelm her, but a broadcast on national television station TVE showed her wearing dark glasses and climbing out towards her support team grinning. Wearing masks, they encircled her in a hug.
Speaking shortly afterwards, she described her experience as "excellent, unbeatable".
Pressed for more details by reporters, she added: "I've been silent for a year and a half, not talking to anyone but myself.
"I lose my balance, that's why I'm being held. If you allow me to take a shower - I haven't touched water for a year and a half - I'll see you in a little while. Is that OK with you?"
Flamini spent her time underground doing exercises to keep her fit and busy, painting and drawing and knitting woolly hats. She took two GoPro cameras to document her time, and got through 60 books and 1,000 litres of water, according to her support team.
Speaking in footage provided by Timecave, as the project was dubbed, during her time in the cave, she said: "Caves are quite secure places, but very hostile to the human being and the brain because you don't see the light of day, you don't know how time is passing, you don't have neurological stimulation.
"It's not that the time passes more quickly or more slowly, simply that it doesn't pass, because it's always four in the morning."
Flamini was monitored by a group of psychologists, researchers, speleologists - specialists in the study of caves - and physical trainers who watched her every move and monitored her physical and mental wellbeing, though never made contact.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, her experience has been used by scientists at the universities of Granada and Almeria and a Madrid-based sleep clinic.
They were studying the impact of social isolation and extreme temporary disorientation on people's perception of time, the possible neuropsychological and cognitive changes humans undergo underground and the impact on circadian rhythms and sleep.
The Guinness Book of Records website awards the "longest time survived trapped underground" to the 33 Chilean and Bolivian miners who spent 69 days 688 m (2,257 ft) underground after the collapse of the San José copper-gold mine in Chile in 2010.
A spokesman for Guinness was not able to immediately confirm whether there was a separate record for voluntary time living in a cave and whether Flamini had broken it.