After 12 harrowing days, spelunker Mike Dickey is finally freed from Morca Cave in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains

Mike Dickey faces grave danger in Turkey's Morca Cave; global rescue teams unite, achieving a triumphant retrieval after 12 days.
  1. New Yorker Mike Dickey’s cave exploration in Turkey takes a dangerous turn, trapping him deep within Morca Cave for 12 days.
  2. International experts and the Turkish military join forces, employing meticulous strategies to ensure Dickey’s safe and timely extraction.
  3. Amid global attention, the challenging rescue highlights the risks of spelunking and showcases the power of collaborative international efforts.

New Yorker Mike Dickey, 40, emerged from Turkey’s Morca Cave, his unwilling home for 12 harrowing days. “It’s amazing to be back on the surface,” an emotional Dickey shared with the press. As a seasoned spelunker and researcher, Dickey never anticipated this expedition to become life-threatening.

Dickey’s unexpected health crisis began deep within the cave, nearly 1,000 meters below its entrance. Officials had indicated that while Dickey’s condition had stabilized, the rescue operation could span three to four days.

“Then it started to get harder to hold on to my conscience and I got to a point where I said, ‘I’m not going to live.'”

— Mike Dickey

The Turkish Caving Federation, which oversaw the intricate rescue operation, declared it a success. “We congratulate everyone who contributed!” they exclaimed in a statement. The research expedition had taken a grave turn when Dickey suffered a sudden stomach hemorrhage deep within the cave, over 1,000 meters (3,000+ feet) below the surface.

It was reported that Dickey had stopped vomiting and had eaten for the first time in days. Preparations were underway inside the cave, addressing the cold environment, widening passageways, and mitigating rockfall risks.

A community united for one man’s survival

As Dickey’s plight spread, a colossal effort was launched to save him. The Sussex County-based New Jersey Initial Response Team’s leader, Dickey, hails from Croton-on-Hudson, New York, and is no stranger to cave and mine rescue missions. Yet, this time, he was the one in dire need.

The world watched, holding its collective breath, as a video message from Dickey, captured inside the cave, was broadcast. The video, dated Wednesday, Sept. 6, showcased discussions between experts from various nations and the Turkish Army on how best to evacuate the ailing researcher.

Rescue teams from across Europe mobilized to aid Dickey. ABC News emphasized his sudden ailment during the expedition, which was only with a handful of people. The New Jersey Initial Response Team, where Dickey was the chief, was known locally for its cave and mine rescue expertise. A New York neighbor described them as ‘a pretty calm family, good people,’ lamenting Dickey’s predicament.

A race against time and nature

Dickey’s health was deteriorating rapidly. When the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service finally reached him, they found him in a grave condition. Immediate medical interventions, including high doses of stomach medication and a crucial blood transfusion, were administered.

The situation inside Morca Cave, located in southern Turkey’s Taurus Mountains, became more perilous each day. Amid the cold, damp conditions, Dickey was losing fluids due to persistent bleeding. The cause of the bleeding remains unknown.

Cenk Yildiz, a regional disaster relief official, expressed his concerns to the IHA news agency. He highlighted the complexities of the rescue, pointing to the need for extensive equipment and unwavering medical care in the treacherous cave environment. Efforts were made to adapt the cave for Dickey’s evacuation, including widening certain passages and mitigating the risk of falling rocks.

Yildiz noted the commendable efforts of the medical team that successfully stabilized Dickey, stating, “Now we are in a position to evacuate him. This is a challenging operation. A healthy person would take 16 hours to get out. This operation will last at least three or four days. Our priority is health. Our goal is to conclude this operation without putting anyone at risk.”

Relief and gratitude

The Turkish military played an instrumental role in the rescue operation, collaborating with over 170 individuals, including doctors, paramedics, and seasoned spelunkers. The rescue attracted international attention, with cave rescue teams from Croatia, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, and the U.S. awaiting an official invitation from the authorities, as disclosed by the European Caving Federation. To assist with medical expenses and aid, a GoFundMe page was set up.

At approximately 00:37 a.m. local time on Tuesday, Dickey was finally freed from the cave’s grip. His parents, overwhelmed with relief and gratitude, told ABC News: “The fact that our son, Mark Dickey, has been pulled out of Morca Cave in stable condition is an indescribable relief and fills us with incredible joy. We know this is an event that everyone involved in the extensive rescue effort worked very hard on.”

Following the medical interventions, Dickey’s condition improved significantly, allowing him to stand and walk. The culmination of collaborative efforts, expertise, and unwavering hope resulted in the successful rescue of a man against seemingly insurmountable odds.