Rescuers have begun to free an American scientist who became stranded deep inside a cave in Turkey after he fell ill. A team reached Mark Dickey, 40, and started to transport him on a stretcher out of the cave just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the Turkish Caving Federation said Saturday in a post on the social media platform X.
It can take days before Dickey reaches the surface. Rescuers are anticipating that he will need to stop and take breaks at camps set up along the passages.
“This afternoon, the operation to move him from his camp at 1040 meters to the camp at 700 meters began,” Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate told The Associated Press.
Dickey has been stuck inside the Morca cave over 3,000 feet deep since Sept. 2 after suffering gastrointestinal bleeding. He was on an international trip to map the cave, the third-deepest in the country, when he became ill. He is unable to climb out on his own.
Dickey, an experienced caving enthusiast from New Jersey, posted a video message earlier this week saying he was “doing well.”
“I look forward to working with everyone to safely get myself out with their assistance,” he said. “As you can see, I’m up, I’m alert, I’m talking, but I’m not healed on the inside yet, so I’m going to need a lot of help to get out of here.”
Dickey was on the trip with his fiancée, Jessica, also a caver. Carl Heitmeyer, public information officer for the New Jersey Initial Response Team, had said Thursday she would exit the cave ahead of his rescue.
Rescuers from Europe have helped to free Dickey. A Hungarian doctor reached him on Sept. 3 and treated him with IV fluids and four liters of blood, according to officials. Teams which include several doctors have taken turns staying with him inside the cave.
The cave, in the Taurus Mountains in the southern part of Turkey, is over 4,100 feet deep with narrow passages and several areas requiring a rappel, according to the Turkish Caving Federation, which is assisting in the rescue.