‘Bering Sea Gold’ Emily Riedel Interview: On ‘Vacuuming Up’ That Gold, Never Watching ‘Gold Rush’ And Her Competition

Emily Riedel

The star of Discovery Channel’s reality show Bering Sea Gold, Emily Riedel, is a fetching and fierce gold miner with an accomplished academic background, studying to be an opera singer. Naturally she named her dredge ship, Eroica, an homage to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3:”Sinfonia Eroica.”

A third generation Homer girl, this Alaskan woman defied all sorts of odds entering a masculine mining world where technique and risks are both highly difficult and dangerous.

Riedel was introduced to Bering Sea Gold in season 3, her vocational path seemed an unlikely deviation from what was going to be a trained operatic singing career.

Now she is hanging tough mining in the Bering Sea as first female dredge owner and captain.

What happened last season and what’s to come?

The last round of Bering Sea Gold saw legacy miner Shawn Pomrenke toppled as the gold tally leader by an ambitious Ken Kerr, stuck on shore with a sour business deal. Kerr positioned himself to be the claim king.

For this new season, we have Vernon Adkison and his daughter Elaine who each have the gold fever.  Also, Kris Kelly is hoping this season will be the breakout one for him.

But all eyes are on the Eroica captain, Emily Riedel, who re-enlists astute diver Daryl Galipeau to hone in on that untouched and ready to be found gold after eons of settling from higher land points in the shallower Bering Sea waters.

Now back on Bering Sea Gold, Emily is back captaining the Eroica, also looking for a new ship that can open up her exploration for more gold.

Will her strategies prove she can match the efforts of Ken Kerr, Shawn Pomrenke, Vernon Adkison and Kris Kelly? There will be territorial wars, calamitous incidents, and high drama as the suction wars commence on this Discovery series.

TV Shows Ace spoke to Emily Riedel ahead of the season and got an earful about all of it and more.

Bering Sea Gold Emily Riedel interview

How are you dealing with all of this COVID-19 stuff up in Alaska? Are you in Nome or are you in Homer?

Emily Riedel:  Thanks for asking. It has been an adventure for sure. I did go to Homer, we had our ice mining season and we ended it abruptly when COVID panic was really setting in across the world. We rapidly ended it and then I left for Homer and I wanted to be close to my family down there and a wait it out a bit.

And then, I just became really excited to get the gold mining season up and running again. I mean, gold mining is, in essence, a social isolative activity. It made sense to try and go for another season. We are isolated out in the boat by ourselves, so it seems to be a decent activity to try during a pandemic.

I’ve been quarantining in Nome actually these last couple of weeks. I’m right at the end of my quarantine and I still have my sanity for the most part, so that’s always good.

You are an enigma, the last time you used your Twitter account was in 2015 and you’ve got 15,000 followers and you haven’t really done anything on Twitter since then. You primarily use Facebook, and I couldn’t find an Instagram for you.

Emily Riedel: Okay. [laughs] You know… it’s funny that you bring this up because I’m actually in the middle of a social media fiasco right now.

First off, my boyfriend makes fun of me for this. I got locked out of my Twitter account by Twitter years ago because it’s connected to an email I don’t use anymore and a phone number that no longer exists.  And et cetera. So, long story short, I can’t even access my Twitter.

Then my Facebook got hacked by some Ukrainian…like some random dude took over my public page and [he] is posting videos as me. Then the same hacker totally obliterated my Facebook page and Instagram.

I am actually like a techno persona non grata right now. I’ve gone back to the dark ages (laughs).

Crazy! So I was just on your Facebook page, and you’re telling me that all the things that I read, some guy in the Ukraine did?

Emily Riedel: Yes ma’am. That is exactly… He’s posting. I mean…look, if you’re going to hack me at least post some cool videos. But all of the stuff he’s posting, is like America’s Funniest [Videos].  It is so bad.

I keep on getting these emails from these really sweet, well-meaning fans, that are like: ‘Emily, I think your Facebook has been hacked there are some unusual videos going up’ and I’m like, I know! It’s shocking!

That’s wild.  Okay. So, you just mentioned you have a boyfriend. In my matchmaker mind I think, she is such an incredible opera singer and you’ve got this incredible classical music background…and your narrator, Mike Rowe is an opera singer too…hmm.

Emily Riedel: Oh wait, is Mike Rowe single? [laughs] I mean, let me just ask my boyfriend if it’s okay (laughs).

For years I’m thinking Mike is an opera singer and Emily’s an opera singer and you all are connected by (Original Productions EP) Thom Beers…

Emily Riedel:  I know…it is such a weird thing. So, I’ve been bothering Mike Rowe…[attention:] ‘If you’re listening Mike Rowe…’  I’ve been trying to get him to sing a duet with me for years. We need to start a social media movement.

I’ve been bugging him about it and it’s like he wants to do it, but he’s a busy guy. I’ve been trying to make this happen. Trust me.

You work really hard to get this plaster mining, which is just basically run-off gold from the glaciers. Do you ever watch Gold Rush’s Parker Schnabel, who’s in Australia. He sticks his hand in a little bit of loose Oz dirt. He pulls out an apple sized golden nugget. Do you ever go, ‘I hate him?’

Emily Riedel: Well, you know, I don’t typically watch shows that are inferior to Bering Sea Gold. Just kidding. I’m totally kidding. [laughs] Um, no. I’d actually…okay. This is, this is something that maybe I shouldn’t confess, but I’ve never seen Gold Rush.

Really. I mean, maybe a couple of minutes over the years. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Oh, this is bad. I don’t even watch my own show. I really don’t. I haven’t seen Bering Sea Gold since season one.

Well, it’s a really great show on Discovery, I recommend it.

Emily Riedel: I think that… I mean, sure, I like big nuggets. They’re all very fine and well, but I don’t have a complex, I prefer my nuggets [laughs].

Are you looking for a new boat this season? You want to get the Eroica upgraded a bit. Am I mistaken or is that true?

Emily Riedel: Yes, you’re not far off. I mean, the Eroica is great. She’s my one and only. I love her dearly. But she’s really built for one purpose.  She is slow, she’s big, she moves a lot of material.

When I was thinking I needed a second dredge, it wasn’t because I’m wanted to get rid of the Eroica, because there’s no way I’m going to do that, because she’s the moneymaker, right? She’s really like the foundation of my gold mining business here in Nome.

But when I say a second dredge, what I really want is something that’s versatile. That can go long distance, and can be lived on aboard and can kind of be lightweight enough to prospect a bunch of new areas. Which I think is part of the future up here in gold mining. And something significantly more sea worthy that you can take from coast to coast and explore areas that haven’t really been reachable before. Definitely not when the Eroica…she’s really built for one thing.

Daryl Galipeau is back, he’s your down on the ground man underwater. He’s the one that’s managing the, the suction dredge and, and really kind of looking and selectively positioning that giant vacuum cleaner thing for you. Talk about Daryl.

Emily Riedel: Yes, Daryl is always awesome to have. I’m always so lucky to have him on board. He’s got decades of experience in the industry. I know that I can send them down there with the vacuum cleaner and he knows exactly what is vacuuming up and how much there is, so we know our ounce-per-hour vacuum rate when he’s down there.

I like calling it vacuuming as opposed to dredging by the way I’m digging it [laughs] . But he is super dependable. I always know that the boat is making money when he’s diving.

The angle it seems for Bering Sea Gold is the unusual weather that Alaska had, especially last year where you guys had such a warm summer. Talk about that – do you anticipate this summer to be a repeat?

Emily Riedel: Yes. It was definitely a record heat wave for a most parts of Alaska. In fact, a lot of the areas on the Kenai peninsula where I’m from, there were a lot of forest fires and record breaking temperatures down there and a drought.

Then up in Nome, we had the heat early on, but really what it transitioned to for us is like once that those warm, currents start coming in from the Bering Sea, it really exacerbates inclement weather. We have all these sorts of storm systems and weather systems come in and really mess things up for us.

It’s really difficult to make your living on the Bering Sea when it is inhospitable to what you’re trying to do out there. Luckily I was the first dredge in the water and I really made full use of the good weather that we had at the beginning of the summer.

I was out there, and we worked for almost a month straight without a break to take full advantage of the weather, which really saved our season. Because after that it was just so much chaos, so many storms and just unprecedented weather cycles up here.

I find interesting about your show too is that producers have a warning card at the end of every episode that says, don’t dredge without extensive knowledge and training. Most people have tried, failed, some have died, is expensive and dangerous – and no other show that that Original Productions does has that warning card. And yet, your own origin story about getting into dredging on a whim and an invite from a friend from being a student and an opera singer, just out of college, was exactly that.

Emily Riedel: Yes, I mean, I think, in my case, I didn’t say that I was going to give up on opera. I think that the very first year I was here, gold mining was just supposed to be a means to an end, not the end itself.

I came up here because I had a family friend in the business and he was like,’ yeah, come on up. You can make 20 grand,’ [which] is what he told me, you can make 20 grand your first year.

And I wanted to go get a degree. I want to be able to fund it myself. I came up here and then everything else that happened was just extremely serendipitous. Really. I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I didn’t expect to buy my own boat.

I didn’t expect to be gold mining for a decade now. And, it’s a career that I’ve kind of fell into and learned the hard way. I wouldn’t entirely agree with that [warning] disclaimer to be perfectly honest.

And I think anybody can come up here and try this. I think anybody could have a dream. I guess the real questions you should be asking yourself is, how disciplined are you?

How prepared are you to suffer? Is your family going to be hurt by you dropping everything and going to try to make money in a town where very few people make money?

If you have a certain amount of perseverance and like I said, you have your stuff together. You don’t go to the bar every night and get sloshed. You are really focused and determined and you learn as much as you can while you’re here. You can come and do this.

But I think it’s interesting because that kind of self discipline… it seems to be in relatively short supply these days, at least these modern times.

So, it’s like, prove us wrong. Right? Come up here and do the job and prove that you can do it. It’s just that there hasn’t really been a whole lot of that.

And yet to get a claim, it’s almost darn near impossible, isn’t it now in, in, in Nome? In the area that you guys are seeing dredging. Are they all spoken for?

Emily Riedel: A lot of them are spoken for. Nome did a really great thing back in the nineties where they allotted a certain space offshore as a recreational area. So you can take a little six inch or an eight inch nozzle diameter,  a smaller operation and you can take it to this recreational areas and anybody can mine, and you’re basically just mining on state grounds.

Now, those areas have been pretty well worked over the years, but there’s still gold there and you could still come up, just as an American citizen, or Canadian, if you’re cool. Just kidding [laughs].

You can still come up here and you can work those areas and nobody can tell you anything the wiser. This is a job for every man or every woman who wants to try it. There’s always a place for you.

Are you starting up? it’s getting close to summer so is it a whole new season they’re filming it for next year, or how does that work?

Emily Riedel: Yes. You know what? I’m working on my boat right now. I’m just about to be released from quarantine and I’ll be able to jump on my boat full time and we’re going to have to go full-tilt boogie to get the boat ready to get in the water, because the ice is going.

It’s time to go to work. Which is crazy. So there’s a season for last year coming out now on Discovery Channel and then this year we’re about to just kind of jump in, like I said, full-tilt boogie.

I’m super excited to be working on the boat – its time to get back to work, it’s definitely time to get back to work.
My last question is a fun one. It’s sort of like a lightning round. Are you ready? I want to get a reaction to these names…starting with …Ken Kerr.

Emily Riedel: Uh, that’s no… I like Ken! (laughs) Oh no, you are going to get me into trouble. Okay, A nice guy.

Shawn Pomrecke…

Emily Riedel: Um, how big is your excavator? Shawn?.

Vernon Atkinson…

Emily Riedel: Oh, try it again. Verne!

Kris Kelly…

Emily Riedel: Daddy issues.


Bering Sea Gold premieres on Friday, May 15 at 8PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel.

April Neale

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