It’s below freezing in Alaska in early November, but that’s nothing compared to what it’s like in the dead of winter. For several seasons, fans of Discovery’s “Gold Rush” have watched the miners in Alaska and Canada’s Klondike race the onslaught of snow, ice and below-zero temperatures to extract the last bit of gold before being shut down.
But on the Bering Sea, technology now allows gold-seekers to park their dredges on the ice, drill holes down four feet to to the water and then dive in to suck gravel — and, with any luck, gold — from the sea floor.
On Friday, Nov. 8, Discovery returns to Nome, Alaska, with the season premiere of “Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice,” in which gold dredgers who usually ply their trade during the 49th state’s brief summer try their luck while the land and ocean are still frozen.
Back for another season is twentysomething Alaskan Emily Riedel, who spends her off-season working on her golden pipes as an opera singer.
“I went to New York City,” she says, speaking to Zap2it from Alaska, “and I received some lessons. It’s going really, really well. I found a great teacher. He beat me up a lot, which was great. That’s necessary in my profession. I didn’t do any performing, but I learned a lot.”
(Click here to see her performing on “The Jeff Probst Show.”)
Of course, spending a lot of time outdoors in rough conditions and diving into cold water in scuba gear is probably not what the doctor ordered for professional singer’s voice.
“It’s not the best thing,” says Riedel. “If every opera singer had her way, she would walk around with a humidifier. You’ve got to give and take what you can. Opera singers are absolutely beyond paranoid about their voices. That probably causes more trouble than just being as careful as possible and letting the world just be what the world is.
“Sometimes the conditions aren’t ideal for your voice, but that’s life.”
Last season, along with the usual challenges of working on the Bering Sea, Riedel had to navigate the complexities of her personal and working relationship with lifelong friend and on-and-off love Zeke Tenhoff, captain of a dredge called The Clark; deal with the suicide of crew member and friend John Bunce; and suffer through underwater panic attacks and other difficulties with diving.
Even after another round of gold dredging, some problems have yet to be solved.
“Swimming,” says Riedel, “that’s going to be a challenge for a bit longer. It’ll probably be the final challenge. but I think I’m making great strides with that. With all the other aspects of this business, that is the mountain that I personally need to climb and conquer.”
But her drive and ambition to find gold didn’t waver.
“I’m probably more enthusiastic,” she says, “at this point in time, as opposed to past years. The past years were all about how to cope with it and what it meant to be in the business. This year was more about the business of getting gold.”
And luckily, Riedel came back without having had a serious injury.
“No,” she says, “nothing that I can really brag about, just a substantial quantity of bruises.”
Below find an exclusive promo for this season of “Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice” …