Elaborate Rescue Continues for Caver Trapped 1,000m Down

Deep in the chambers of a renowned Turkish cave, an American explorer was in trouble.

Mark Dickey, 40, came down with sudden “stomach bleeding” while exploring southern Turkey’s Morca Cave in late August, the Associated Press said in an early report. Dickey, an experienced caver, was taking part in an expedition that included several others when he fell ill.

Dickey and the group had descended over 1,000 meters into the cave when he became unable to return to the cave’s entrance.

Rescuers, including a Hungarian doctor, rushed to the scene with help from the Turkish government. In a video shot on site, Dickey says he received treatment that “saved [his] life.”

“I want to thank everyone that’s down here, and thank the response of the caving community. The caving world is a really tight knit group, and it’s amazing to see how many people responded on the surface,” he says in the clip.

Dickey may be in the cave for weeks

He attributed his salvation to the quick response and critical attention he received. However, the final outcome remains unclear. He and the rescue teams will need to spend “days or weeks” inside the cave system while he recovers enough to squeeze through multiple body-sized passages on the way out.

USA Today has rendered a detailed report of the rescue operation, which the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) is organizing. Several teams have divided the cave into seven segments. A Turkish team is stationed from zero to 180m. A team from Hungary takes the next section, from 180m to 360m, then a Polish team takes over down to 500m. Two teams from Italy are covering the area down to 715m.

Finally, two teams from Croatia and Bulgaria are responsible for the distance from there to Dickey’s location.

The task has proven coordinately and financially demanding. A GoFundMe campaign had raised over $50,000 for the effort as of this writing.

a cave rescue in progress (left and right)

Rescuers organize around the mouth of the Morca cave. Photos: ECRA


The latest information from the ECRA, issued Friday morning, indicates that all teams are making efforts to ensure “transport to the surface can begin soon.”

Morca is Turkey’s third-largest cave system. Nestled in the Taurus Mountains near Eremenek Baraji, an alpine lake, it plunges to 1,276m.

Dickey is Chief of the New Jersey Initial Response Team, a volunteer group that specializes in cave and mine rescue, and is an instructor for the National Cave Rescue Commission. Whether official work in either capacity led to the current incident is unclear.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.