American cave explorer Mark Dickey has been rescued from a deep cave in Turkey after he became ill during an expedition more than nine days ago and was unable to reach the surface.

The dayslong rescue operation was completed successfully after a stretcher-bound Dickey, 40, was lifted from his position at a camp about 3,400 feet below the surface in multiple phases, according to the European Cave Rescue Association.

The Speleological Federation of Turkey said he exited after midnight local time and the cave rescue “has ended.”

Dickey’s parents, Andy and Debbie, said they were filled with “incredible joy” and thanked everyone for the outpouring of support.

“It is, we know, an event that all involved in the extensive rescue effort worked so significantly hard for,” they said. “Mark is strong and we believe in his strength, but fully knew that he was in dire need of tremendous and immediate support. We are so very thankful and grateful that the support he needed was given to him and that the first medical rescue team to arrive reached him when they did.”

As the operation began, the American researcher, also known for his work training others how to rescue people from caves, was said by the association to be medically stable.

Sept. 7, 202301:42

Recep Salci, head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, said some parts of the cave system were blasted with explosives ahead of the rescue mission to make it easier to move the explorer toward the surface.

“There are some very tight passages,” he said in an interview Friday. “It’s a very challenging rescue operation.”

Dickey’s ordeal began Sept. 2 at Morca, which exists beneath the Taurus Mountains and is the third-deepest cave in Turkey. Dickey said he began suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding and was unable to get himself to the surface.

He was initially moved a few hundred feet upward, to the 3,400-foot level, where the Turkish Caving Federation has a camp, the group said.

That’s where he’s remained for about a week, awaiting rescue. In a statement, the federation called it “one of the largest cave rescues in the world.” 

Salci said the explorer was administered an unspecified treatment via IV as he awaited his return to the surface.

The Hungarian Cave Rescue Service, which aided in the rescue effort, said Dickey appeared to be “in serious, life-threatening condition” when they first encountered him days ago.

A medical team takes care of American caver Mark Dickey, center, 40, inside the Morca cave in Turkey on Saturday.Marton Kovacs / AP

In a statement Monday, the rescue service said his health appeared to improve over the course of a few days.

“We hope that Mark will surface later today and that he can continue his treatment in hospital as soon as possible,” the rescue service said.

Dickey was exploring with his fiancée, who planned to stay at his side until the rescue commenced, according to Carl Heitmeyer, public information officer for the New Jersey Initial Response Team, where Dickey serves as team leader.

“We are grateful to the Turkish military and first responders leading the rescue effort,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday.

Dickey was helping lead a late-summer expedition at Morca and hoped to map a new pathway, said Gretchen Baker, national coordinator of the National Cave Rescue Commission, where Dickey has been teaching cave rescue courses for 10 years.

Heitmeyer described the explorer as an asset to the world of caving.

“Mark is an elite caver,” he said. “There’s only a couple thousand people of his caliber in the world.”


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