An American researcher is trapped deep inside a Turkish cave. Here's what to know
Updated September 8, 2023 at 2:22 PM ET
Recovery crews from across Europe are working to save an ailing American researcher trapped deep inside a cave in southern Turkey.
Mark Dickey, 40, was exploring the Morca cave, one of the deepest caverns in Turkey, when he suddenly fell ill last weekend. More than 3,400 feet underground, Dickey, himself a cave expert, suffered from stomach bleeding and was unable to hike back to the cave's entrance.
Over the past week, cave rescuers, doctors and paramedics rushed to find and treat Dickey inside the immense cave. As of Thursday, Cave Rescue Bulgaria said Dickey's condition was improving, adding that his bleeding had stopped and he was able to walk alone.
The second challenge, safely bringing Dickey out of the cave, has proven to be more complicated and arduous.
"Rescue missions from such deepness are very rare, extremely difficult and need many very experienced cave rescuers," the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) said in a statement.
ECRA added that they are waiting for doctors' approval to begin transporting Dickey and hope the extraction will begin in the next few days. The operation is believed to be one of the largest cave rescue efforts in recent history, according to the Speleological Federation of Turkey.
Dickey and his team were on an expedition into the Morca cave when he suddenly felt "severe gastric pain" on Saturday, the ECRA said. His condition rapidly worsened and it became clear that Dickey could not leave the cave on his own. According to the New Jersey Initial Response Team, which Dickey belongs to, the hike back to the cave's entrance from his location takes about eight hours.
That's when Dickey's team called for international help. On Sunday, the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service, along with a doctor, was the first to arrive and reach Dickey. Over the next week, teams from Bulgaria, Italy, Croatia, Poland and Turkey joined the rescue effort — setting up a telephone connection, installing rope systems inside the cave and building an underground camp. Even more international groups are on standby, the ECRA said.
In a video recorded from inside the cave and obtained by Reuters, Dickey said he felt alert and able to talk, but "not healed on the inside yet." He also thanked rescuers and the Turkish government for their quick response.
"The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it is amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface," he said. "The quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge."
As of Friday, rescues teams are preparing their way out to return to the cave's entrance. The cave's path was divided into seven sections, with various teams responsible for about 600 feet of the trail.
The plan is to carefully bring Dickey about 1,000 feet closer to the cave's entrance over the next few days, Cave Rescue Bulgaria said. Doctors are also working to stabilize Dickey's health to prevent any complications during the transport.
A similar rescue in Germany in 2014 took nearly two weeks to complete. At the time, over 700 people were involved in saving an injured German caver.
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