Experience: I lived in a cave for 40 days

We spent a lot of the time talking about love, joy and how we could improve humanity. But there were also arguments over the washing-up

I grew up in one of the biggest forests in Switzerland and spent my childhood around nature. I became an explorer and have travelled to some of the most extreme places on the planet: a 70C summer in the Dasht-e Lut desert in Iran, and a month in the Verkhoyansk mountains in Russia which can reach -60C. I want to better understand humankind’s ability to adapt to extreme environments. When I was young, I read about a Frenchman called Michel Siffre who spent weeks alone in a cave in 1962 to see what would happen to his body rhythm. The idea of living without the structure of time became a dream, and when lockdown came, disrupting schedules people had kept all their lives, I saw a reason to repeat the experiment.

I found a cave in the French Pyrenees where I could go with 14 others who volunteered to join the expedition; I made sure there was a gender balance and a good level of fitness. The aim was to see how living down there for 40 days and nights without clocks, sunlight or contact with the outside world would affect our sense of time. Inside the cave, we would not be allowed to speak with our friends or family, or receive updates about the outside world.

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