Marooned in Morca
A man ventured thousands of feet underground into the Morca cave system in southern Turkey. But along the way he became gravely ill, and now rescue teams are scrambling to get him out.
The spelunker, a 40 year-old American named Mark Dickey, is an experienced speleologist, or cave scientist, and is renowned in the caving community.
Dickey had entered Morca with 14 others. Nothing could prepare him, however, for his untimely diagnosis: gastrointestinal bleeding, stranding him at his camp around 3,400 feet into the cave.
Word arrived at the European Cave Rescue Association (ECRA) on Saturday, and with support from the Turkish caving community and government, they've quickly made progress in ensuring Dickey's safety.
On Sunday, a doctor accompanying a Hungarian rescue team was able to reach Dickey and provide emergency medical care, according to a statement by ECRA.
The next day, two additional Bulgarian rescue parties also made it to the camp. Dickey is, for the time being, safe, and thanked rescuers in a video message shared by the Turkish government on Thursday.
"The caving world is a really tight-knit group and it's amazing to see how many people have responded on the surface," Dickey said, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. "I do know that the quick response of the Turkish government to get the medical supplies that I need, in my opinion, saved my life. I was very close to the edge."
Still, Dickey and the rescuers' hardest challenge is still ahead of them, as it's unclear how exactly they'll be able to extract the stranded spelunker.
Initially, rescuers had hoped that after administering Dickey with the proper medicine, he would be able to exit on his own.
Yet after doctors assessed his condition, they realized that he was in no shape for that to happen.
At a depth of 4,186 feet, Morca is the third deepest cave in the country and one of the deepest in the world — not to mention being nearly 2.5 miles long. The cave's tunnels are as winding as they are treacherous, and certain stretches are too narrow to let a stretcher through.
"It would take 15 hours for a perfectly healthy, experienced caver to come out from that depth," Yaman Ozakin, a spokesman for one of the rescue teams, told The New York Times.
Ozakin added that rescuers are working on using a special harness to lift Dickey out of the cave. It may be days or even weeks, however, before he can be extracted.