There are few mainstream TV shows on these days which feature divers, and in fact, there have been few shows focused on scuba diving in this history of TV. The original Sea Hunt series, featuring Lloyd Bridges as the charismatic Mike Nelson, ran from 1958-1961 was one of the most successful TV shows and inspired many at the time to develop an interest in diving. Other shows, such as the 6 Million Dollar Man and the clevage-heavy Baywatch occasionally featured divers, and of course there have been many theater movies, such as The Deep, Leviathan, The Abyss, and The Big Blue which have shown in the theaters.
In 2012, the Discovery Channel launched the TV series Bering Sea Gold, a reality television series set in Nome, Alaska. The show follows boats equipped with various setups for gold mining in the summer, and divers descending below five feet of solid ice the frozen Bering Sea in the wintertime in search of gold.
If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a 2-minute clip:
Risky diving with a ton of surface-supplied dive gear in a challenging environment obviously has its challenges, and adding to the drama are the unique and conflicting personalities of the crew members. There is tension, arguments, and full-on physical fights taking place in the episodes, both between crews and among them. That’s to be expected in a reality show, and of course one of the reasons so many people watch them. As a diver, I’m far more interested in the diving, their equipment, procedures, and methods they use to find and collect the gold.
If you’ve spent much time in Alaska, one thing you will discover is that a proportion of the population does not care as much about certifications, rules and procedures specified by private organizations and the government in the lower 48. They tend to be very independent by nature and thrive on learning on-the-job. This definitely seems to be the case of many divers on Bering Sea Gold. On several episodes, divers are apparently making their first dives ever, without ever taking a dive class or breathing from a regulator (though they’re wearing full-face masks). Dramatic footage shows divers having their surface-supplied air interrupted, rip off their masks and swim to the surface. One diver suffers carbon monoxide poisoning when his tender on the boat doesn’t notice the air intake is right next to the engine exhaust. Another becomes enraged at his dive team, quits the crew, and storms off the set, reportedly as the result of “nitrogen sickness”. While it certainly doesn’t always portray this type of diving in a positive light, it is certainly entertaining at times.
This year’s ice season crews include:
Shawn Pomrenke and his dad Steve are fixtures in Nome year-round, running their increasingly successful mining company. However, the guys have never had a lot of success during the winter dredging season – with sub-zero temperatures and snow storms hammering their crew. Also, Shawn can be short-tempered and combative which doesn’t help. Can he keep his cool even when the going gets tough?
Having severed ties with Steve Riedel, the fighting Kelly’s are keeping it in the family this season. Sons Kris and Andy are working with their dad, Brad, but there’s one big problem. They rarely see eye-to-eye. Let the fighting begin!
Emily Riedel has faced a lot of uphill battles over the years. Last season, she parted ways with her former childhood friend (and love interest) Zeke Tenhoff – following the suicide of their close friend John Bunce. As Nome’s first and only female dredge owner, Emily has a lot to prove and hopes that she can earn enough money to pay off her debts and save up for her big opera ambitions. She has floundered as a greenhorn and exposed her fear of diving. However, she eventually struck gold last summer and now everyone is back for more.
Zeke Tenhoff has returned to Nome and is ready to strike it rich. After facing his personal demons – and a few battles with the law – Zeke is back with a new girlfriend, Sarah, who he met while visiting New Orleans. Zeke has teamed up with dredge-geek Glen LeBaron. But can Glen keep his ego in check? Or will this turn into the ultimate grudge match?
Steve Riedel is hoping for some major change in luck. He was fired from his first dredge, failed at ice mining and lost his dredge from last summer after it got repossessed. Once the summer season kicks in, Steve plans to pull out all the stops. But for now, he’s sidelined in a remote compound on the edge of town, simply known as Steve’s World.
The Wild Ranger
Over the past three seasons, Vernon Adkison has leveraged everything he owns – with nearly a million in the hole – for his dream of striking the mother lode. For Vernon, the stakes have never been higher – and he’ll either make it or truly break it this season.
Have you seen the show? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page by clicking here.
Bering Sea Gold has apparently done well in the ratings, and the Discovery Channel is gearing up for the return of the show next month. The 4th year of the show will premier on March 13 at 10 p.m. EST/PST.
Bering Sea Gold is produced for Discovery Channel by Original Productions.