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After 130 Days in a Cave, Italian Woman Says She’d Return

June 7, 1989

PARIS (AP) _ Stefania Follini winced, then grinned widely on Wednesday as she watched a videotape of a manhole cover clanging shut in the New Mexico desert, signifying the first of her 130 days in a cave.

″I’d do it again, for sure,″ the Italian interior decorator told a Paris news conference Wednesday. ″But it would have to be in a cave, not artifical space. A cave’s not easier, but it’s more natural.″

She said she passed the time reading, daydreaming, doing judo, playing guitar before returning to the real world in March.

″In the beginning, my thoughts were like a photograph album,″ she said. ″I thought about my friends and family. Then I dreamed about what I was reading or else just that I was wandering among the stars. I didn’t feel like a prisoner there, never, never.″

Ms. Follini, 27, from Ancona, almost looks like a 16-year-old with her round spectacles and short, girlish haircut. However, scientists who worked with her say she has a powerful will and concentration.

The experiment at Lost Cave near Carlsbad was part of a joint project by Italian scientists and NASA. It was designed to help understand how astronauts cope physically and mentally with different types of stress.

In the coming weeks, psychologists and scientists will examine results of the data Ms. Follini relayed by computer to a trailer above her on the windswept scrub.

Her ordeal was principally to deal with living in the limited space alone - except for two mice she named Guiseppe and Nicoletta.

However, she also suffered with Vitamin D deprivation as a result of lack of sunlight or the foods she ate underground. She also underwent changes in her immune system and biorhythms.

The cave temperature was controlled at 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Climbing out into the desert heat on May 22, she believed it was March 15.

After the first six weeks underground, she spent cycles of 32 hours awake and then 21 hours asleep.

Mealtimes were spartan: usually rice and beans without no fresh food the whole time. She lost 19 pounds while underground.

″I just wanted some bread when I came out,″ she said.

Ms. Follini was among 20 volunteers for the experiment.

″I thought it would be an incredible thing to do, so I went and asked,″ she said.

After tests in the United States and France, Ms. Follini was now looking forward to rejoining her family in Italy: ″I was afraid they would disagree with my going. But they just said ’good luck.‴

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