American man stuck in Turkey’s Morca cave set to be rescued


Mark Dickey, the 40-year-old American spelunker who fell ill while exploring a cave in Turkey last week, is set to start a slow ascent Friday, with the help of an international team of more than 200 rescuers.

Dickey suffered from gastrointestinal bleeding last week while exploring the Morca cave with other cavers, rendering him unable to climb out on his own, according to the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service. Although Dickey’s health is improving, he still faces a challenging exit that will require him to be brought out from more than 3,400 feet underground.

The Morca cave is the third deepest in Turkey, with a depth of almost 4,200 feet.

“This will not be a quick rescue due to where he is in the cave and the challenging terrain ahead,” Gretchen Baker, a representative of the National Cave Rescue Commission in Huntsville, Ala., said in an emailed statement. But “the cave rescuers on scene are extremely talented, and many have worked in deep caves. Mark has caved in several European countries and knows some of these rescuers from other expeditions.”

After falling ill at a depth of about 3,674 feet, Dickey was placed at a camp 3,412 feet underground, according to the Turkish Caving Federation. A day after Turkish cavers alerted the European Cave Rescue Association on Saturday, a Hungarian rescue team with a doctor reached Dickey. Medical professionals will have to give the green light for his rescue to begin, the European group said.

“Rescue missions from such deepness are very rare, extremely difficult and need many very experienced cave rescuers,” the European Cave Rescue Association said in a news release this week.

A dog was missing. Cavers found her two months later 500 feet underground.

Video footage shared by the Turkish government Thursday showed Dickey alert and walking, though he acknowledged that he was “not healed on the inside yet.”

Rescue teams from Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Poland will form a task force led by the Italian contingent, according to the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service.

“The cave has been divided into seven sections, with different cave rescue teams working to prepare each section for Mark’s passage,” Baker said. “This includes adapting the current rigging to rescue rigging, which can hold more weight and is in good places to put in haul systems. It also means enlarging the passages so that a litter can fit through.”

Dickey will assist in his rescue, but to keep his condition stable, he will be put on a litter, a type of stretcher, “for at least part of the time,” Baker said. “Using the litter protects him, but also means that it will take longer to get out of the cave, as there are many narrow, tight sections on the route out, and the litter is harder to fit through than a human body,” she added.

Dickey himself is an experienced caver who has rescued people and taught rescue classes for the U.S. National Cave Rescue Commission, Baker said. “These experiences mean that he knows what is in store for him now that he is the person who needs to be rescued.”


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