US explorer Mark Dickey, 40, trapped in the Morca Cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains since last Saturday, acknowledged needing “a lot of help” in a video message released by the Turkish presidency to Agence France-Presse on Friday.
The American caver experienced internal bleeding and fell ill at a depth of 1,120 meters during an expedition to map the Morca cave system for the Anadolu Speleology Group Association (ASPEG).
The recovery mission, coordinated by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and involving 45 spelunkers inside the cave and 97 outside, is a highly coordinated operation involving teams from several countries.
The Turkish Caving Federation (TUMAF) spokesperson Yaman Özakın conveyed to BBC’s Turkish edition that determining the best method of extracting Dickey—either by stretcher or aiding him to walk out on his own—remains a critical part of the ongoing rescue efforts, which could potentially last for weeks.
Dickey, who has been resting at a base camp 1,040 meters underground, managed to stand and speak clearly in the released video, even smiling at one point while expressing gratitude to the Turkish government and personnel involved for their rapid response in delivering the necessary medical supplies, which, in his view, saved his life. He reported being near the “end of his life” when the medication reached him.
In addition to the professional rescue team, Dickey’s fiancée Jessica Van Ord, who was part of the exploratory journey, was able to reach him, providing emotional support and accompanying him until his condition began to improve, after which she returned to the surface. Dickey acknowledged that her presence brought him back from “very close to the edge.”
According to the reports, Dickey was leading a team when he experienced gastric bleeding and has received 6 units of blood so far. While the exact nature of his health problems remains undisclosed, both Dickey and the rescue teams emphasize a cautious approach given the cave’s low temperatures, fluctuating between 4 and 6 degrees Celsius, and the technical challenges presented by its depth, recorded at 1,276 meters.
As Dickey and experts from many countries work through what has been described as one of the “most comprehensive cave rescue operations” in terms of logistics and technical aspects, messages of encouragement and updates continue to travel in and out of the cave, a process that takes one to two days.
Mark Dickey has 20 years of caving experience and has conducted seminars on cave rescues. Meanwhile, a financial campaign on a Gofundme page set up in Dickey’s name has raised 30,000 pounds to aid in the rescue efforts.
The international community watches as coordinated efforts to rescue Dickey continue, bearing in mind that a similar operation in Germany in 2014 took 11 days.
Neither Dickey nor Turkish officials and the rescue teams have disclosed the exact nature of the explorer’s health problems.