Tuesday , 3 October 2023
Inside the dramatic cave rescue of trapped explorer Mark Dickey

Inside the dramatic cave rescue of trapped explorer Mark Dickey

Explosions, steep, cramped crevices and 190 experts navigating one of the world’s deepest caves – the rescue mission to save renowned American researcher Mark Dickey was never going to be easy.

But after a three-day operation involving experts from all over Europe, the 40-year-old explorer was finally pulled from the depths of the Morca cave system in the Taurus Moutain region in south Turkey more than a week after he went in.

Emergency services were scrambled after Mr Dickey became unwell with gastrointestinal bleeding and was too ill and fragile to pull himself out of the cave – leaving him stranded 3,400 feet below the surface.

A team of 190 experts from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Turkey was rapidly assembled to save the highly-trained caver and well-known personality in the international speleological (cave expert) community.

Mr Dickey first fell ill on September 2 after having stomach pains that rapidly escalated to gastrointestinal bleeding. His fiance and fellow caver, Jessica Van Ord, was with him at the time and stayed with him until medics arrived.

His treatment started a day later by a Hungarian doctor who went into the cave as they tried to stabilise his condition. He later appeared in a video shortly afterwards thanking the Turkish authorities for their rapid response and for saving his life

“I don’t quite know what’s happened, but I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life,” Mr Dickey said. “I was very close to the edge.”

American explorer Mark Dickey trapped underground in a cave in Turkey’s Mersin has been rescued

(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Teams comprised of doctors, paramedics and experienced cavers then took turns staying by his side at all times and administering him with IV fluids and blood.

The biggest challenges for the rescuers getting him out of the cave were the steep vertical sections and navigating through mud and water at low temperatures in the horizontal sections.

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Mr Dickey’s condition gradually improved as the week progressed until he was well enough to be able to make the challenging journey back out of the cave which started on Saturday.

However, before the evacuation could begin, rescuers first had to widen some of the cave’s narrow passages, install ropes to pull him up vertical shafts on a stretcher and set up temporary camps along the way.

US caver Mark Dickey, on a stretcher, is carried out of the Morca cave as his rescue operation comes to a successful end near Anamur in Mersin province, southern Turkey September 12, 2023


They also used explosives to blow open parts of the cave and rock hammers were also being used so they could safely pull Mr Dickey through while he was on the stretcher.

Rescuers carried him with the help of a stretcher, making frequent stops at the temporary camps set up along the way before he finally reached the surface early Tuesday.

“Mark Dickey is out of the Morca cave,” said a statement from the Speleological Federation of Turkey. It said that Dickey was removed from the last exit of the cave at 12.37am local time Tuesday, or 9:37 p.m. GMT Monday.

“He is fine and is being tended to by emergency medical workers in the encampment above,” the statement said. Lying on a stretcher surrounded by reporters following his rescue, Dickey described the ordeal as a “crazy, crazy adventure”.

A medical team takes care of American caver Mark Dickey, center, 40, inside the Morca cave near Anamur, southern Turkey, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.


“It is amazing to be above ground again,” he said, thanking the Turkish government for saving his life with its rapid response. He also thanked the international caving community, Turkish cavers and Hungarian Cave Rescue, among others.

He added that in the cave he had started to throw up large quantities of blood. “My consciousness started to get harder to hold on to, and I reached the point where I thought ‘I’m not going to live,” he told waiting reporters.

Mr Dickey, who is from Croton-on-Hudson, New York, is a well-known cave researcher and a cave rescuer himself who had participated in many international expeditions.

He and several other people on the expedition were mapping the 1,276-metre deep Morca cave system for the Anatolian Speleology Group Association.

The final stage of Mark Dickey’s rescue evacuation from the Morca cave

(European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA))

After his rescue, the head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, Okay Memis, told a news conference that the health of Dickey was “very good”.

The European Cave Rescue Association said many cave rescuers remained in the cave to remove rope and rescue equipment used during the operation.

The association expressed its “huge gratitude to the many cave rescuers from seven different countries who contributed to the success of this cave rescue operation.”

“The fact that our son, Mark Dickey, has been moved out of Morca Cave in stable condition is indescribably relieving and fills us with incredible joy,” Mr Dickey’s parents. Debbie and Andy Dickey, said in a statement after the rescue.

Additional reporting by agencies


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