Scientist Mark Dickey shares video from Turkish cave as rescue begins

US scientist Mark Dickey, 40, shares emotional video from 3,400ft-deep Turkish cave thanking medics for saving his life after stomach bleeding emergency as huge four-day rescue mission begins

  • Mark Dickey fell ill last Saturday while on an expedition 3,400ft underground

An American researcher who fell ill more than 3,400ft below the entrance of a cave in Turkey has shared an emotional video thanking medics for saving his life as rescue teams prepare extract him in an operation that could last three to four days.

In new footage he said he was ‘very close to the edge’ as he thanked Turkish authorities for rescuing him. 

‘The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it’s amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface,’ he said. ‘We’re still waiting for communications actually to reach down here. So right now it’s a day or two days worth of travel for information to get back and forth. 

‘I don’t quite know what’s happened, but I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I needed, in my opinion, saved my life.’

Mark Dickey, 40, became suddenly ill with stomach bleeding on Saturday during an expedition with a handful of others in the Morca cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains. He was left unable to leave the cave on his own, according to the Turkish Caving Federation.

Rescuers from across Europe rushed to the cave for an operation to save him, including a Hungarian doctor, who reached and treated him. Officials said on Thursday that his condition had stabilized and was improving.

In this screen grab from video, American caver Mark Dickey, 40, talks to camera next to a colleague inside the Morca cave near Anamur, southern Turkey, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023

Members of Italian Alpine Rescue take part in the rescue operation in Morca Cave, near Anamur in Mersin province, September 7, 2023

The skilled caver was in Morca cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains when he became ill with a heavy cough and blood in his stools. 

A friend of Dickey’s told NBC News that the scientist has told rescue workers that he wants to climb out himself, something that is the ‘underground equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.’

The friend added that Dickey had been semi-conscious underground for around three days and couldn’t eat.

Officials said Thursday that Dickey’s condition had finally stabilized and was improving. 

He is said to be in ‘good spirits’ and doctors would decide if he will leave the cave on a stretcher or under his own power.

‘The doctors we sent down were very successful in treating him,’ Cenk Yildiz, a regional official from Turkey´s disaster relief agency, told the IHA news agency. ‘We are now in a position to evacuate him.’ 

‘This is a difficult operation. It would take a (healthy) person 16 hours to come out. This operation will last at least three or four days,’ Yildiz continued. ‘Our priority is health. Our aim is to conclude this operation without anyone coming under any danger.

Late on Thursday, members of Italy´s National Alpine and Speleological Rescue Team, including at least a doctor and a nurse, joined rescue teams from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Turkey. 

A Turkish helicopter was on standby near the entrance of the cave, Turkish media reports said.

Dickey was seen standing and moving around in a video message from inside the cave that was made available by Turkish authorities on Thursday. 

He said while he is alert and talking, he is not ‘healed on the inside’ and will need a lot of help to get out of the cave.

Mark Dickey is pictured in happier times with his wife. Rescuers are now trying to extract him from Morca Cave after he fell ill on September 2

Rescuers arrive at a base camp to take part in a rescue operation, September 8, 2023

The base camp of international rescuers is seen near the Morca Cave, September 8, 2023

Rescuers hold a meeting near the Morca Cave as a rescue operation continues, September 8

European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) members and Turkish gendarmerie officers stand next to the entrance of Morca cave near Anamur, southern Turkey on Thursday 

The researcher was on an expedition mapping the 1,276-meter (4,186-foot) deep Morca cave system for the Anatolian Speleology Group Association when he ran into trouble about 1,000 meters down, according to Yusuf Ogrenecek of the Speleological Federation of Turkey. 

He initially became ill on September 2, but it took until the morning of September 3 to notify others who were above ground.

More than 170 people, including doctors, paramedics and experienced cavers, are involved in the rescue operation.

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