On last night's episode of "Nightline" with Cynthia McFadden, they had a segment featuring some of the treasure hunters from "Bering Sea Gold." She introduced it as a modern-day gold rush, with millions of dollars in gold; free, just for the taking. However, those who have watched this show for the last two seasons, know that it is far from free.
Bill Weir traveled to Nome to find out all about it. He was on "The Edge," listening to the voice of Emily Reidel, the aspiring opera singer who works with her friend and ex-beau Zeke Tenhoff. Last season they had a smaller dredge called, "The Clark," but now, Zeke invested into a much larger and more seaworthy vessel. When Bill described "The Edge," he called it a tiny hunk of steel and plywood in the middle of the sea. One would expect an aspiring singer to be a waitress or barista in the off-season, but Emily dons a musty wetsuit and dives to the bottom of the Bering Sea with a ten-inch suction hose looking for gold. She told Bill that once you saw gold, nothing else matters; even that your life is in danger.
Nome offers very little but a few bars, surprisingly good pizza and geology. Centuries ago, glaciers sent gold to the shores of Nome and about a hundred years ago, you could pick nuggets off the beach. When the nuggets were gone; the boom town all but disappeared. Now that the recession has hit and gold prices have soared, hunters are back to make their fortune.
Zeke told Bill that "The Edge" is the modern equivalent of a pickaxe and mule. He also told Bill that working alone, he once had a ten-ounce day, worth about $18,000. Now he attempts to repeat that feat with every dive. Nome has also become a boom town for reality television. "Bering Sea Gold" has become very popular for its drama and outrageous personalities. It also shows how many hunters have gone deep into debt to find gold, some barely breaking even, others losing much more. Bar brawls are commonplace where money is involved, including one where an investor, Vern Adkison spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and only received less than an ounce and a drink in his face from his captain. Both Vern and the captain, Scott Meisterheim have separate dredges this year and no loss of hatred for each other.
Another dredge, the biggest of them all is the "Christine Rose." This mighty dredge is an eighty-foot barge with a backhoe. No diving for father and son Steve and Shawn Pomrenke, the crane does the digging. They have accumulated about 20,000 ounces of gold with this large operation, but even father, and son have their differences.
Emily has found just how dangerous it can be, with a crappy air compressor and the unpredictable Bering Sea; lives can be lost very easily if precautions are not taken, and the system above the water is not constantly monitored.
Zeke told Bill that for aspiring dredgers who expect to make a fortune doing what he does; expect to spend many winters broke. He also said that when they make money, they are happy, but in Nome, they all die broke.