Turkey Cave Rescue: Live Updates On Mission To Save American Explorer

American Mark Dickey was trapped more than a half-mile from the entrance of a cave in Southern Turkey after he became ill on an expedition.

A massive rescue operation is underway in southern Turkey to save an American explorer who was trapped 3,400 feet from the entrance of the Morca Cave outside the district of Anamur.

Mark Dickey, the 40-year-old American caver, started experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding while with an expedition team in the cave, one of the deepest in Turkey. An international team is moving Dickey out of the cave via a stretcher.

Read live updates on the rescue mission:

Associated Press

There Have Been Several Previous Successful Cave Rescues

As rescue efforts to save Mark Dickey continue, there are reasons to remain optimistic, including that in recent years there have been several successful cave rescues.

In a similar situation to Dickey's, an injured explorer was trapped in Germany’s deepest cave system in 2014. Johann Westhauser, 52, injured his head in a rock fall and was unable to leave the cave on his own. Hundreds of rescue workers were on hand to help in the rescue operation, and after 12 days Westhauser was safely returned to the surface.

In perhaps the most well-known cave rescue in recent years, a junior soccer team was trapped in a cave in Thailand for two weeks in 2018. The 12 boys and their coach were stuck in the Tham Luang Cave after heavy rains trapped them. The rescue effort took several days, and officials said the team’s coach was among “the weakest in the group” because he gave up his share of food and water to the boys.

In 2004, six British soldiers were trapped in the Alpazat caverns in Puebla, Mexico, after heavy rain flooded the cave system. Their rescue eight days later set off rumors about whether the soldiers had gone into the cave in search of uranium deposits.

And in 1991, more than 200 people mobilized to rescue Emily Mobley, who got trapped in New Mexico’s Lechuguilla Cave after she broke her leg. Thankfully, Mobley had been part of a five-person team surveying the cave and was successfully rescued the following day.

Caver's Parents: 'Our Prayers Are Being Answered'

Dickey's parents, Andrew and Deborah Ann Dickey, said their son was receiving medical attention.

“Mark is strong, but he needed his fellow cavers, including, of course, the doctors, to allow a devastatingly scary situation to turn positive,” they said in a statement, according to the New York Daily News. “Our prayers are being answered and we cannot express how much that means, and will always mean, to us.”

Dickey is one member of a 14-person expedition mapping the Morca cave system.

Who Is Mark Dickey?

Dickey, a 40-year-old cave researcher and explorer from New Jersey, is an instructor with the U.S.-based National Cave Rescue Commission who also serves as the organization’s international exchange program coordinator. The volunteer-based group was “developed primarily to train and track cave rescue resources throughout the United States.”

The European Cave Rescue Association describes Dickey as a member of its medical committee and “a highly trained caver and a cave rescuer himself” who is well known in the speleological community across the globe.

He’s engaged to Jessica Van Ord, who was also part of the expedition into the Morca cave. She stayed with him while he first began experiencing gastrointestinal issues and bleeding while inside the cave, but she began climbing out when his condition improved. She’s expected to resurface at some point Thursday.

Cave Communications

Communication with Mark Dickey is an expedition in itself.

Dickey is trapped nearly 3,000 feet below the cave entrance after becoming ill during a journey with other researchers. Since rescuers got word that Dickey had become trapped, communication with him and the outside world has taken between five to seven hours, according to The Associated Press.

Runners head deep into the cave to speak with Dickey before returning to a telephone line set up just below the cave’s entrance to share status updates.

In one instance, a video of Dickey from inside the cave was shared with media outlets.

“The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface,” Dickey said in the video.

Trapped Caver Sends Video Message Thanking Rescuers

In a video message from inside the cave that American explorer Mark Dickey is trapped in, he thanked Turkish first responders and the caving community.

“The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface,” Dickey said in the video. “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. I was very close to the edge.”

Dickey, who experienced gastrointestinal bleeding while more than half a mile deep in the cave, was able to stand and move around in the video. Dickey clarified that he is not “healed on the inside” however, and will still need help to escape the cave.
Getty Images

About The Cave Where Dickey Is Stranded

Located in southern Turkey's Taurus Mountains (pictured above), Morca sinkhole is the third-deepest cave in the country with a depth of more than 4,100 feet, according to the Turkish Caving Federation. The cave is very narrow, which will make removing Dickey on a stretcher a complicated task.

"The cave is mostly vertical, but it doesn’t go straight down,” Dickey’s friend and fellow caver Carl Heitmeyer told NBC News.

"There’s water in-feeding from two points near the top of the cave and some of the passages are filled with water, and there are tight squeezes and corkscrews where you have to turn your body in [a] certain way," he continued.

The cave is frequently visited by scientists studying calcite formations in the caves, collecting biological samples from its water pools and doing other research.

Rescue Could Take Days

Due to many difficult factors, including Dickey's condition, the depth at which he fell ill and the cave's narrowness, the rescue could take several days.

"It’s still expected to take quite a few days to get him all the way out of the cave, as it’s such a difficult and technical cave and he is so far deep in it right now," Gretchen Baker of the National Cave Rescue Commission told NBC News.

CBS reported that parts of the cave were being widened to accommodate a stretcher.

Massive Team Helping With Rescue

According to Turkey's caving federation, more than 150 people are aiding the rescue mission. The team includes individuals from Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy.

More Details On The Rescue Mission

Dickey was deep inside the Morca cave when he began experiencing gastrointestinal bleeding. While his condition has been reported to be stabilizing, he will still need major assistance to exit the cave. Rescuers currently plan on removing him via stretcher.

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