Living Isolated Underground

Since the beginning of the 20th century, experiments have been conducted again and again on how people react to unusual living conditions. Living underground, without light or daily rhythm is one of them. Scientists have always been fascinated by how people, and in some cases animals, react to this situation. For this purpose, individuals and also groups repeatedly spent weeks to months in caves. Comparable experiments were important for medicine, but also for the quality of the equipment, and such experiments were also carried out for space travel.

The results were partly as expected, in fact light deprivation affects people quite little. Some other results were quite astonishing, such as the fact that the natural sleep-wake rhythm of humans can deviate very much from the daily rhythm. Natural light is a zeitgeber which syncs human sleep patterns with Earth’s 24-hour day. In many cases, interesting details about the caves were discovered, which was not the aim of the study at all.

At the same time during the 1950s and 1960s, China was rumoured to be using solitary confinement to “brainwash” American prisoners captured during the Korean War. US and Canadian governments were all too keen to try it out. Research programmes by various countries' defence departments are considered ethically dubious today. And of course during the Cold War the possible effects of spending years in an Atomic Bunker were of great importance. The experiments developed to perception deprivation experiments causing hallucinations, extreme emotions, paranoia and significant deterioration.

In the 21st century the cave based experiments seem to have been revived. Today they cost millions and are made with massive media coverage.

Our personal opinion is: cave expeditions spend many days underground without exploiting this in a media-friendly way. They actually do research, surveying and scientific investigations while they are underground. And not only do they pay the costs themselves, but they do it in their spare time, because speleologists are enthusiasts. How about funding such expeditions instead, collecting data on a broad basis, not just in a spectacular but singular experiment.

Early experiments were done by cavers without funding and were really uncharted scientific territory. Current projects have no scientific benefit and only use the cave as a marketing tool. It is absolutely unnecessary to use a cave for this kind of experiment, any mine, bunker, basement or even a windowless lab would be much more efficient and much cheaper. Doing this in a cave is obviously just marketing at the expense of nature.


1961 French geologist Michel Siffre led a two-week expedition to study a glacier cave at the French Alps and ended up staying two months.
1961 scientific experiment 700 ore sotto terra (700 hours under the earth) in Grotta del Caudano, Piemonte, Italy.
16-JUL-1962 to SEP-1962 French geologist Michel Siffre spends 63 days in the Gouffre de Scarasson, France.
12-MAR-1965 Josie Laures spend 88 days in a cave in the Alps, France, supervised by Michel Siffre.
1965 Antoine Senni spend 126 days in a cave in the Alps, France, supervised by Michel Siffre.
1972 Michel Siffre spends six months in a cave near Del Rio, Texas.
1993 Maurizio Montalbini, a sociologist and caving enthusiast, spends 366 days in an underground cavern near Pesaro in Italy.
2000 Michel Siffre spends more than two months in the Grotte de Clamouse, France.
14-MAR-2021 to 24-APR-2021 Deep Time experiment by Christian Clot, 40 people spent 40 days inside the Grotte de Lombrives, France.