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“The whole team is doing well and continuing their life underground”

INTERVIEWThey have been living for two weeks 400 meters underground. Seven women and eight men are leading a 40-day scientific mission in the Lombrives cave, in Ussat, which aims to observe and better understand our adaptation capacities. The team of volunteers is made up of doctors, researchers and a nurse. Jérémy Roumian, director of logistics operations for the Deep Time expedition, gives news from the group on Europe 1, which has just communicated the first data. “The whole team is doing well and continuing their life underground,” he says.

The expedition leader, Christian Clot, made a report this week of the first days spent inside the cave. “They are fine. They are making their mark. They are learning to live in this universe.” Contacts with the outside world are limited and take place via an airlock. “From time to time, they can release information,” he explains.

Very busy days

The living conditions are harsh inside the cave. “It is 10 degrees and between 95 and 100% humidity at all times,” says Jérémy Roumian. Even if he considers probable that there are “fears, fatigue and moments of doubt”, the director of logistics operations of the expedition recalls that “it is part of this experience”. “What really matters is the ability to adapt in the long term.” Inside the cave, a small shelter of 10 square meters allows the volunteers to isolate themselves.

The vast rooms of the Lombrives cave have been arranged in three distinct places. “A main place of life, a zone of absolute rest where the rule is that they must not wake up each other – because everyone must live at their own biological rhythm – and then a scientific zone”, says Jérémy Roumian. The fifteen team members have busy days. “You have to go and draw your water and purify it, prepare and manage food stocks and produce part of the electricity”.

Collection of psychological and cognitive data

Added to this is “about two hours of work, of scientific protocols to be carried out each day” with questionnaires and regular reports to be completed. The objective is to collect data “of a physiological, chronobiological, psychological, ethological and cognitive nature” that the researchers will be able to compare with those collected before and after the experiment. The researchers observe in particular the “cognitive representation of time” of the participants, who do not have a watch available.

The rules of life underground will remain the same throughout the experience. “What one can imagine, on the other hand, is that as they tame the darkness, temperature, humidity and social functioning of the group, they make somewhat longer explorations of Cave.”

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