An international team of over 170 rescuers has embarked on a complex operation to evacuate a New York cave researcher who fell ill more than 3,000 feet underground in Turkey's Morca cave. Speleologist Mark Dickey, 40, fell ill with gastrointestinal bleeding on September 2 while on a mapping expedition. The rescue effort, led by Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD), has established a medical relay system throughout the cave to aid Dickey. The operation to move Dickey from his camp at 1040 meters to the camp at 700 meters began on Saturday, but it is expected to take a week or more to get him to the surface, depending on his condition.
Rescuers have set up small "medical camps" throughout the cave shaft with a "mini laboratory" to monitor Dickey's condition as he is evacuated. The teams have been rotating, with a doctor and three or four others monitoring Dickey's health. Dickey had been vomiting, bleeding, and losing fluid from his stomach, but doctors have administered IV fluids and at least four liters of blood. His condition has stabilized, and he has even managed to eat food.
The cave has been divided into seven levels for Dickey's evacuation, with different rescue teams responsible for each section. The biggest question is whether Dickey will be able to leave the cave on his own two feet, with assistance, or if he will need to be carried out on a stretcher. If he needs to be carried out on a stretcher, it could prolong the operation to up to 10 days.
Communication with Dickey has been challenging due to inoperable phone lines in the cave. Experienced cavers are relaying communication between ground-level rescuers and Dickey, but it takes approximately eight hours each way. The temperature in the cave ranges from 39 to 42 degrees, adding to the difficulties faced by the rescuers.
Despite the challenges, Dickey remains hopeful and thankful for the response from the caving community and the Turkish government. In a video message shared by Turkey's communications directorate, Dickey expressed his gratitude for the quick response and the medical supplies that saved his life. While he is still not fully healed on the inside, he is staying alert and awaiting help.
The rescue teams are preparing several bivouac points for Dickey and the rescuers to rest during their return. Passages within the cave are being widened to facilitate a safer extraction, and the danger of falling rocks due to the work is being addressed by the rescue teams. The physical toll on Dickey and the psychological impact of being trapped for an extended period are concerns for the rescuers.
The extraction is expected to begin on Saturday or Sunday, but the timeline will depend on Dickey's condition and the progress made during the widening of passages. Rescuers from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Turkey are working together to ensure the successful evacuation of Dickey. His parents expressed their gratitude to the rescuers, stating that their prayers are being answered and that they are incredibly thankful for the life-saving efforts.
The operation to evacuate Dickey is considered one of the largest cave rescues in the world, both logistically and technically. The international team of rescuers is determined to bring Dickey safely back to the surface, providing him with the medical care he needs after his challenging ordeal deep underground.
themes: New York (state)