Emerging from Turkey’s third deepest cave after more than a week trapped within its depths, U.S citizen Mark Dickey was welcomed with a sigh of relief by his rescuers. The operation spanned over 150 people, all united in their efforts to rescue Dickey, who was beset by severe stomach issues while within the confines of the Morca Cave on September 2. The endeavour was touted as one of the largest and most complex underground rescue missions to ever be undertaken.
The Morca Cave is situated in an isolated section of south Turkey and descends to a staggering low of nearly 1.3km (0.8 miles) underground. After enduring an ordeal that lasted from dawn until dusk, Dickey was eventually extricated from the cave at 00:37 local time (21:37 GMT) as announced by the Turkish Caving Federation on social media.
The successful rescue was confirmed by Carl Heitmeyer of the New Jersey Initial Response Team, the group directed by Dickey himself. Dickey’s gratitude towards the concerted efforts of his rescuers was palpable amidst his physical distress.
A grim period followed when Dickey’s condition began to deteriorate and he found himself confronting thoughts of his mortality. His anxiety spiked as they battled through the situation, which quickly escalated from a mere infection to uncontrollable bleeding. As his consciousness began to waver, he expressed his fears of not surviving the ordeal.
Dickey’s parents, Debbie and Andy, overcome with relief and joy, thanked the international caving community, crediting them with making their son’s extraction and subsequent medical treatment possible. They believed in Mark’s strength but acknowledged the dire need for timely and tremendous support.
Dickey was a co-leader of a team mapping a new passage in the cave when he first experienced gastrointestinal bleeding. After receiving a blood transfusion, his condition improved. He was subsequently secured to a stretcher for a slow and cautious extraction, involving a precarious journey through confined rock tunnels, necessitating the use of explosives at the narrowest points.
His rescue was facilitated by workers from multiple countries, including Croatia and Hungary, who traveled to Turkey to help. Jessica Van Ord, Dickey’s fiancée, also lent her assistance, having remained beside him during his health crisis before eventually resurfacing.
From within the cave, Dickey expressed his gratitude towards his rescuers in a video message, crediting the swift actions of the Turkish government for saving his life.
Assisting fellow caver Dickey was described as an “honorable experience” by the rescuers. Zsofia Zador, a Hungarian anaesthesiologist, mentioned the intrinsic challenges of the cave, including narrow passages and muddy shafts.
Mark Dickey, with more than 20 years of caving experience and a decade of teaching a variety of cave rescue classes to his credit, was leading an expedition into the Morca Cave until the incident unfolded. The Hungarian Cave Rescue Service, also assisting with the operation, affirmed that Dickey had been co-leading the expedition since late August.