“If at first you don’t succeed, then you know you’re gold mining” — Steve Riedel, “Bering Sea Gold”
Airing Fridays on Discovery Channel, the reality series Bering Sea Gold travels to Nome, Alaska, a coastal hamlet set amid endless tundra, which is far away from pretty much everything (except Russia).
There, cameras follow the adventures of people who brave brutally cold winters and moderately chilly summers (the average high doesn’t quite hit 60) to dive into the ocean to suck rocks and sand, and hopefully some gold, from the floor of the Bering Sea, using contraptions that range from the small and rickety to the large and peculiar-looking (one of them had been known to paddle with its backhoe).
Among these people is Steve Riedel, a native Alaskan whose history on the show has not exactly been golden. He was fired off the same dredge three times, failed at ice dredging, and then was captain of a summer dredge, which was repossessed.
But despite all of this, Riedel’s gold fever is undimmed.
Calling into Breitbart news on Sept. 4 from Nome, where he’s just gathered wood for his yurt (apparently it’s 36 degrees), which could be considered a step up from the old schoolbus he used to live in, Riedel says, “What I love about Nome is my daughter’s here, and gold is here.”
Riedel’s daughter, Emily, a statuesque twentysomething brunette who mixes gold dredging with opera singing (no really, she’s good, click here to see), also has her own dredge, called the Eroica.
“Her gold count is disappointingly low,” says Riedel. “Every time they go out, they’ve got gold, but she hasn’t been able to connect with the motherlode. You’ll get these lines of gold, and you follow them, and you get three ounces an hour. You work eight hours, and get 24 ounces in a day, 32 ounces in a day, like that, but she’s had none of those days.
“But their operation, it’s smoothly run. She’s got an exploratory dredge, a small one that she’s using to look for new ground, so hopefully they’ll get more gold there.”
Asked what he likes about Nome (which, at least from what you see on the show, doesn’t look like the garden spot of Alaska), Riedel says, “It’s the adventure, mostly. It’s very exciting. You’re always on the edge of your abilities, and that, to me, is a great place to be. Complacency, it kills the will. Comfort kills the soul, I think.”
“We’re humans; we like to mix it up, not know what’s going to happen the next day, that kind of thing. It’s on the edge. Nome is on the edge. That’s what I like about Nome. That’s what I hate about it, too,” he added.
After all, the next stop from Nome, other than the odd island, is Siberia.
“Oh, yeah,” says Riedel, “next stop, Russia. And you’re 500 miles beyond the end of the supply line. You can get things shipped here by air or water. It’s very expensive with air, and with water, you need a lot of planning, six months. There’s none of that in the winter.”
“A hamburger is $15; pizzas are $60. I’m serious. It’s crazy,” he says.
The local citizenry can also be colorful.
“A large population of miners here,” says Riedel, “are ruffians, ne’er-do-wells, liars and chats. In some ways, they’re nice guys, a lot of them, tremendously intelligent and funny, but it definitely attracts the ne’er-do-wells. I deal with those kind of people every day.
“It’s frustrating, because I lived a Leave It to Beaver life, raising kids. I didn’t have a normal job, but I was never in the hot seat like I am in Nome here, because of who I am. I attract these guys, these ruffians, and I have mixed it up so much more with this kind of people than I ever did in my life, the last 30 years,” Reidel explains.
Riedel says he grew up in Anchorage, graduating high school in 1973. He later worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which was built between 1974 and 1977, sparked by the discovery of oil at Prudhoe in 1968 and by the sharp rise in energy costs because of the 1973-74 OPEC oil embargo.
Recently on his Facebook page, Riedel shared a cartoon about both political parties being in the pocket of corporations.
“That’s interesting that you picked that up,” says Riedel. “My strong belief is that… the corporation has always been extremely powerful, and the Framers knew that and knew that power gets corrupted. That’s the way it is. We’re living in a corporatocracy, because the corporations have been allowed to grow to the extent they’ve grown, the power they have has eclipsed the power that was in the people and our government.”
He continues, “I worked on [the pipeline] two seasons, and so I saw the private corporation, the way it worked. That probably more formulated my political ideas.”
While some people may find themselves pursued by groupies after appearing on TV, Riedel has had the opposite experience.
“My love life,” he says, “of course, sucks, because there are no available women here, that I meet. So that’s changed my life. In Anchorage, there are a lot of beautiful women, so I got to hang out with some. Here, no. Zero. I think I am the only guy who got fewer dates because he was on TV. That’s my moniker.”