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Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Tommy

Another Year Wiser...

Happy Birthday To YOU.  Happy Birthday to YOU..  Happy Birthday dear Tommy...  Happy Birthday to YOU!!!!  Cheers to hoping you find a great BIG gold nugget today. (:

With love from your sis,

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Over the Hill

Gale force winds have been ripping through Nome the past couple of days and nights.  The KY Goldenrod crew awoke to find their outdoor 'facility' had been carried away by the strong wind; just lifted it up and tossed it into the nearby tundra.  The new plan is to send back the porta potty, and bury our own septic system.  Therefore all bathroom duties can be done inside the full bath at the end of container 1.

The winds have been wreaking havoc on gold divers, as the seafloor has been quite murky, making clear visibility impossible.  They hope that by Saturday the winds will have died down enough to dive for gold.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The ONLY Given In This Game

Many very valuable lessons are learned the hard way by doing things less than perfectly the first few attempts (especially when treading on new territory).  Successful people generally have enough personal drive to learn from mistakes and keep pushing forward even though there may be some pain and discomfort during the process.  Others may tend to collapse due to setbacks rather than staying focused on the achievement of the goal of success.  After a time, small setbacks can add up to a major failure, which may eventually result in the person giving up altogether on the endeavor. This is seen quite regularly in gold mining, when a person is in the prospecting phase and doesn’t find a pay-streak right away.

The business of dredging for gold in the Bering Sea has so many variables and unknowns that it can literally make your head spin!  That is the ONLY given in this game.  All the rest lies within the hands of happenstance (or so it seems), no matter what you've learned or not.  It is all a vicious cycle; hope the weather holds out, wait, wait, wait and chomp at the bit until it does, finally go out dredging, hope to select a good spot to prospect, wrestle with equipment, to sample or not to sample, move rocks and suck gold til you can't anymore or some system fails, wrestle with equipment AGAIN and head back to port, wander back home, finally fall into bed and crash into a deep sleep from complete exhaustion.  Of course, don't let me forget...REPAIRS and ongoing MAINTENANCE of the dredge and all of it's seemingly delicate parts.  More time is spent doing that than mining.  Ugh...  Did I mention clean outs?  (Always hoping the 'goes ins' far surpass the 'goes outs') It is what it is, and not everyone can do it;  plain and simple.


Great pic of Ian Foster, Captain of Sluicey 2 and cast member of Bering Sea Gold!  He is tired, but staying focused.  Or, I like to call tired.  Hang in there Ian!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Finale Hoorah

Bering Sea Gold Under the Ice season finale recap...

All of the episodes of Bering Sea Gold Under the Ice have ended with the following disclaimer:

Offshore dredging is not a get rich quick opportunity.  
It is expensive and DANGEROUS.
Most people who try fail.  Some have died.

Leads are huge cracks in the ice and an obvious sign from nature that the ice is melting.  The Lazy Gator crew has been ice diving closer in to shore from East Beach (public recreation area).  The ice is thinner there, and they all work as fast and as hard as possible (rotating divers every hour) to get gold while they still can. They're on the gold and are pushing it to the last second.

Finally, during individual dives, both Derek McClarty and Jacob Musich hear Mother Nature sending loud popping noises throughout the water (a sure sign the ice will soon give way).  They both exit the water as if they nearly escaped; clearly shaken.

"Hearing that ice shifting and popping is like a sign written on the wall.  It's the sign I need, and I can read.  It says GET OFF THE ICE!"  Derek McClarty

So, the Lazy Gator crew calls it a season, each fairly ecstatic with their unprecedented ice mining gold finds.

Shawn and the Shamrock crew are finally on a good streak of gold and are giving it all they've got up to the end.  Steve Pomrenke finally rides in and urges Shawn to call it quits until summer.  Without further ado, Shawn packs it up for the season, despite not meeting his goal of 100 ounces.

"It's an endless cycle.  You get more gold, put it back in, get more gold, put it back in...until one day you hope to find enough gold to quit."  Shawn Pomrenke

The Clark crews' expectations were far from realized this season.  However, on the positive side it was an incredible (yet, chaotic and painful) learning experience, and "that's a success and failure in itself", Steve Reidel...  Determined to break away from being broke, Zeke is the last ice dredging operation to budge from the ice.  Zeke is clearly very driven and has simply been unfortunate in choosing a good spot this time around.  There is no doubt, there's a bit of a gamble in this business.

"Gold on the bottom of the ocean is like an open cash register.  The uncertainty keeps me coming back."  Zeke Tenhoff

Seems gold really DOES make people do things they wouldn't do ordinarily...
Til next season guys (and gal).  Strong work!

Final Gold Tallys:

The Lazy Gator    
95.95 ounces 

68.45 ounces

The Clark
7.7 ounces

Friday, September 21, 2012

HELP NEEDED Experienced Bering Sea Gold Diver

If you are an experienced gold diver in Nome, Alaska (Bering Sea) and are looking for work, RESPOND. Honest and experienced inquiries ONLY. 
Thank You.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shifting Rhythm with Axis

It is 8:15 a.m. in Nome now as I write this from my desk at 12:15 p.m. in Kentucky.  The sun hasn't yet risen there.  My Father paused to yawn while on the phone with me a while ago.   Usually much earlier to rise, his circadian rhythm is quite obviously effected by the Earth's tilt in axis these days.  Just a reminder, when our team arrived in Nome (early in June), the days were exceptionally long (about two hours of darkness then).

 Circadian Rhythm

At the military and weather station located at 82°30′05″N and 62°20′20″W, on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, Canada (about 450 nautical miles or 830 km from the North Pole), the sun begins to peek above the horizon for minutes per day at the end of February.  Each day it climbs higher and stays up longer.  By March 21rst, the sun is up for over 12 hours. On April 6th, the sun rises at 5:22 a.m. and remains above the horizon until it sets below the horizon again on September 21rst at 3:35 a.m.   By October 13th, the sun is above the horizon for only 1 hour 30 minutes and on October 14 it does not rise above the horizon at all. It remains below the horizon until it rises again on February 27th.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gorgeous Visions to Behold

The sun is setting in Nome now between 9-10:00 p.m. (7 minutes sooner every eve).
It snowed in Nome today.  Not much, just a dusting.  The past couple of days have not been good for mining, as the weather turned wet and windy again.  The Goldenrod crew has been busy making any necessary adjustments to the dredge during this unwelcomed time off.  Our crew will stay in Nome and dredge until the ice prevents them from going out (usually mid to late October).  

Nome is starting to see the first signs of 'Old Man Winter' as the mountains collect snow on their peaks.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fear and Dumb Luck Keep Divers Alive Under the Ice

Recapping Bering Sea Gold, Under the Ice from Friday, September 14...

The return of seagulls off Nome's coast, brings the beginning of the 5 ft thick ice meltdown. Although the ice does not completely melt until around the first week in June every summer, it begins to melt months sooner, slowly weakening the support for heavy ice diving equipment. The ominous sign of bubbles start to actively appear atop the ice of the underwater dive sites, indicating a near cease of operations for the season.

"The air bubbles we are making while diving are traveling 5 ft through this ice", as described by Jesse Strickling, a diver on The Lazy Gator.  Jesse and The Lazy Gator crew are running their dive operation around the clock, leaving them all exhausted.  This episode Jesse goes diving on 30 minutes of sleep over a two day span, and experiences the unexpected.  As the ice melts it also forms 'ice chandeliers' that are jagged ice crystals dangling downward from the ceiling.  Jesse's air hose becomes tangled around some of the crystals, taking him an extra five minutes to free himself from, delaying his rise to the surface.  His teammate inadvertently falls asleep on duty, and is of no help when Jesse calls for him from under the ice.

"The idea of going into subzero temperatures in a hole and it's the only way in or out..I just gotta be confident in my ability to do it."  Jesse Strickling, Diver on The Lazy Gator

The Shamrock crew is also operating long hours, and are feeling the drain.  Shawn Pomrenke gives one of his inexperienced crew mates, Phil Rode, a try at diving.  Frustrated when Phil isn't suctioning much of anything, Shawn dons his wetsuit and joins him on the seafloor.  Lucky for Phil, Shawn doesn't come up and purposely scare him from behind (it IS open ocean, and any number of large fish COULD be passing by looking for a quick meal).  Phil finally gets the hang of it and puts gold in the box.  "Ice diving is a bit like driving a car in Fairbanks," he says. (???) Perhaps he made that statement during a hypothermic state of mind... Shawn decides that Phil did his best and will allow him a couple of more dives while the 'getting of gold' is still good.

Zeke Tenhoff experiences a VERY close call after he goes under the ice and loses his weight belt.  The sudden loss of 100 lbs that he needs to keep him on the seafloor quickly becomes a problem causing him to rise to the surface and be pinned to the ice ceiling.  Anxious to find the hole to the outside, he desperately bangs at the ice hoping that Emily will hear his cries for help.  He finally finds the opening and realizes his brush with death.  "If I lost my air hose by chance down there, I would have drowned just then," he told Emily...  Knowing he needs weight to return to the seafloor, Steve and Emily Riedel devise a plan to get him there.  They place rocks that have been sucked into the sluice box into a bag that Zeke will use as weight.  This enables Zeke to descend to the bottom, retrieve his weight belt and resume dive operations.  He's 'on the gold' and there's no time to lose.

In the end, Zeke and Steve make amends, as Zeke realizes what a tremendous resource he has in the people he's chosen, and who WANT to work on The Clark.  They both get GOLD STARS this week.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts from the Deep

Fantastic dredging weather in Nome this week!  The Goldenrod crew has been out dredging the past several days.  Tommy has been diving, and finds it to be the easiest work he's done up to this point;  all alone underwater, hearing nothing but himself breathe and his unspoken voice uttering random thoughts from within. It's a little different from, but rather like being in the thick of a forest, enveloped instead by water than by woods...  He can also determine if the boat's engines are running smoothly, and the distant sounds coming from the Kubotas  aboard.  He says that the suction is really powerful coming from the hose, "I'll set the hose on the sand, and it sucks all the way down to the bedrock!" He can hear the sounds of pebbles and other matter being sucked into the hose, and says, "The hose will suck a 10 pound rock up like it's nothing."  I asked him if he saw any gold.  "I think I may have seen some, but it's really hard to tell.  We'll know for sure when we do a clean out."

His first dive was in just 6 feet of water.  Since he was so shallow the visibility was not as good.  Tommy moved rock and suctioned for over five hours before calling it a day.  He said that his lips got really cold, but his body stayed warm in his 7 mm thick wetsuit with warm water pumped through from the heat generated off the engines.  By the time they got back to harbor it was nearly midnight.  

The second dive was in 16-18 feet of water (deeper on lot 40).  Tommy described it as a much clearer dive down deeper, again moving rock and suctioning underneath. All went smoothly until the compressor belt bit the dust, forcing them to call it a day.  Fortunately, the new cog driven system has arrived, and will be installed promptly by our crew. 

This Goldenrod show is on the road!  Here's to your ongoing safety, keeping those 'deep' thoughts always positive, and to a successful clean out Brother! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Trust yourself, Trust your Team and Believe in the Gold," Steve Riedel.

Most of my observations from Episode 3 of Bering Sea Gold Under the Ice are related to The Clark crew...

Zeke Tenhoff has not been successful finding a good spot to mine under the ice, as evidenced by $0 in the box up til now.  Although Zeke has a great work ethic, his luck with picking a hot spot has failed him...Underslept and overworked, Zeke becomes angered when his overnight crew comes to inform him of the hole being over a sandbar.  Steve Riedel chimes in, "You didn't put the camera down there to check", which only further agitates Zeke.  'Told you so' remarks by Steve are taken as insults to Zeke's character.  Steve goes on to tell Zeke, "YOU are the monster.  YOU made the mistake.  YOU have driven this outfit to near bankruptcy!"  Instead of taking deep breaths and shrugging it off, Zeke reacts by requesting to Steve that he write a full page apology letter "in his best cursif"  about how wrong Steve was to call him out.  Zeke is hellbent on retaining his dignity as the boss of his crew.
                    "Trust yourself, trust your team and believe in the gold," Steve Riedel.

I agree with Zeke that Steve Riedel is quick to point out the mistakes of others.  However, Steve Riedel is no dumby.  He is older, wiser and less testosterone driven than Zeke, and should be respected (by Zeke) as his elder.  Relationships with others are what truly matter in life.  Zeke and Steve have known each other for many years, not to mention Steve is the Father of Emily (Zeke's lifelong friend and former love interest).  Steve really didn't insult Zeke's work ethic or intelligeince, he insulted his behavior by the way he reacted to the camera comment and poor choice of mine site. 

Later, Steve Pomrenke pays a visit to Zeke and recommends that he try his dowsing rods.  Shock and sketisiscm are written on Zeke's face, but he tries them as advised by Steve.  While walking over the ice with the dowsing rods, they eventually cross.  In amazement, Zeke decides to dig where X marked the spot from the dowsing rods.  What does he have to lose?  A lot of the older miners stay on the gold all of the time.   "I don't believe in magic, but I do believe there is some scientific phenomenon that is occurring.  The pull from the rods is impossible to deny."

                      "I feel like I have this new superpower", Zeke remarks. 

Gold Tally thus far...

Lazy Gator    
27.52 ounces worth $45, 174.08

6.5 ounces worth $10, 669.75

The Clark
0 ounces worth $0

Sunday, September 9, 2012

They Told Us So

Where to begin...I will start by reporting that Nome is now sunny after raining 27 days straight!  The gold dredgers are ecstatic to be able to work again, as the fierce waves have also subsided. 

Goldenrod was designed to be a dredge that doesn't require divers.  Instead, a mechanical arm (made from a backhoe arm and bucket) was mounted to the front of Goldenrod with two camera led suction hoses attached for vaccuming where the arm digs.

Our team was immediately informed by experienced dredgers in Nome that our system is too complex and would be fraught with problems. The Goldenrod crew simply needed to see and experience that for themselves, as a great deal of mental and physical effort had gone into the design and building of the mechanical arm (not to mention costs).  It was the primary dreamchild of our crew's Nome Project.  What a concept; not to have to actually get into the frigid water to mine for gold. 

After repairing the arm once agin recently, the Goldenrod crew went out dredging to discover that it is simply NOT going to work.  Although the arm is functioning beautifully, what has been occuring is that during the digging and rock moving process with the arm, the dredge shifts upwards of 15 feet away from where the suctioning needs to take place, despite the dredge being heavily anchored from both sides and from the back.  Our team isn't able to keep the boat from moving in the water during dredging.  Previous Nome dredgers have attempted the similiar mechanical arm operations, also to no avail. 

After serious thought, the crew's executive decision was made to get rid of the mechanical arm, and to redesign Goldenrod to be a hookah dive dredge.  Divers are better able to determine where to move rock, and where to suction for gold on the seafloor.  It is the PROVEN method of getting gold off the seafloor in Nome.  Every minute counts in Nome, and our crew made a huge sacrifice for the success of the operation. 

Therefore, Goldenrod no longer has an arm.  It has taken several days of much negotiations with local divers in Nome to locate available equipment for this about face operation.  In a matter of days our expeditious crew completely converted Goldenrod to a dive dredge.  She may no longer have an arm, but certainly stands a better chance in the Bering Sea now... 

My brother, Tommy, plans to suit up tomorrow for his first Bering Sea gold diving experience.  He is an experienced and certfied scuba diver, which will certainly help to improve his underwater comfort level.  He is uber excited to get down there, move a lot of rock and suction seafloor sand down to the depth of around 1-1.5 ft (to bedrock, where most of the gold is). 

This season Steve and Shawn Pomrenke's crew is on the gold with their best season ever.  One of our leases is in that same general area, so that's where our crew will be spending the next several weeks.  Here's wishing our crew luck and to Tommy for safety while diving! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Dip in Dowsing

We take pleasure in things that confound our senses, which is why conjuring tricks are delightful and science can seem a killjoy. The physicist Richard Feynman once said that "Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself". What he didn't say was just how much fun fooling yourself can be.

Dowsing is an ancient way to find different underground formations: various water formations, precious metals, oil or one of the many forms of earth energies.  Because of the somewhat mysterious way that dowsing works, its history has had numerous moments of rejection, ridicule and even strong accusations.

The classic dowsing rod is a simple forked stick cut from a tree branch which is held in both hands with the single and longer branch part or "pointer" facing outward. When gold is located, the pointer will drift downward until it is pointing directly at the ground, marking the spot to dig or search. Gold dowsing rods being sold these days are typically L-shaped brass rods that the user grasps lightly in both fists with the longer portions of the rods pointing outward. When gold, silver, or other treasure is detected, the 2 rods will cross over one another, with the center of the crossing point being the "X marks the spot".

Dowsers ‘believe’ they can dowse, thus making it more a matter of faith than science. While every dowser who has ever tried to prove his/her claims has failed completely, they invariably continue to believe in their abilities.

Skeptics of dowsing and many supporters of it believe dowsing tools have no special powers but simply amplify small but otherwise imperceptible movements of the hands.  The movements have long been established to be the 'ideomotor effect' (muscle movements caused by subconscious mental activity) and can make anything held in the hands move. It looks and feels as if the movements are involuntary. The same phenomenon has been shown to be behind movements of objects on a Ouija board.

There have been many investigations of the veracity of dowsing. The positive studies were mostly informal and did not meet scientific standards. These studies failed to exclude alternate explanations such as environmental clues in open terrain. A well-designed study would have blinded the dowser and the experimenter. Furthermore, any study must be carefully analyzed for statistical significance before conclusions can be drawn.

Shawn Pomrenke (from Bering Sea Gold) utilizes dowsing rods when searching for fresh ground to mine.  He and his crew commute to a spot they feel is 'hot', i.e. where the river flows into the Bering Sea.  "People may think I'm crazy for doing this, but it don't bother me one way or another, as long as I get some gold", says Shawn.  Each time Shawn feels the pull of the rods, he marks the location and returns with his dredge.  His dredge grossed over $1,300,000.00 in gold for the Summer of 2011.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I am going to preface this by saying, I am NOT a superstitious person.  However....what is up this year with the weather in Nome (aside from global warming aftermath)?   It is storming again; leaving the Bering Sea gold miners fit to be tied!  The summer season generally offers around 80-100 days of suitable weather for dredging.  And, that is if the operation is up and running smoothly from around June 1.  This summer has been one of the wettest on record.

Goldenrod was on the water Sunday.  The crew got within  a short distance to our furthest lot and both of the Suzuki engines started signaling 'low oil pressure' (almost simutaneously and they are seperate units).  The oil was immediately checked in both engines and determined to be fine, therefore deducing the issue to that of an electronic setting of sorts.  Then, the crew eased on out to the dredge zone on one engine, as a precaution....They dredged for a while and then lost pressure in one of the Kubota suction hose pumps (went to 25 psi down from 48).  As a result, the crew decided to only run one of the suction hoses.  It is not as if they are reliving some previous error they made.  They are expeditiously trouble shooting a new problem again and again!  Not one at a time, but five.

I may not always fully understand the mechanical problems that the Goldenrod crew is faced with time and again, (as I document this journey from a desk over 24 hours of modern travel time away from the likes of Nome).  But, their frustration is very near and dear to my heart.  Makes me want to curse Mother Nature and kick a tire for them! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Time is Money

Did you watch Bering Sea Gold Under the Ice on Friday?  This is a break down of what happened...

Shawn Pomrenke

With a 30 day window for ice dredging, The Shamrock crew has been attempting to run a round-the-clock operation on the ice.  Shawn Pomrenke's crew needs to be collecting around one ounce of gold per hour to be profitable (he ultimately needs 50 ounces to be break even).  Every mistake costs time and money, and Shawn knows that all too well after having been in this business for the past 16 years with his Father, Steve Pomrenke.   Shawn worries that his Father will show up and criticize his work.  I'll bet Steve isn't handing out constructive critiscim for kicks.  I have a feeling Steve keeps Shawn in check for a reason...While diving in the dark and under the ice, Vince ( a Shamrock crew diver) becomes severely choked up when an electrical fire suddenly ignites on the dredge sending smoke down through his air source.  After catching his breath and realizing just how close he may have come to death, Vince makes the comment, "Almost died and I'm still broke.  Maybe I should find a different job."... When one's most basic requirement is threatened, "Gold just don't matter."  

Visible panic on the face of Steve Riedel.

"It's a thousand times more dangerous than summertime dredging", Zeke Tenhoff.

The Clark crew, led by Zeke Tenhoff, has breathing issues of their own.  Both Steve and Emily Riedel suit up (in the same suit I might add) and separately take the plunge.  58 year old Steve is a veteran Bering Sea gold diver, but up to now has yet to dive beneath ice.  With the sea frozen over, the water is much darker and ominous.  When Steve reaches the seafloor he begins to panic, rushing to the surface for air.  Steve is immediately struck with the good sense not to return.  Then, his daughter, Emily goes diving. She experiences the inability to purge pressure from her mask, and cannot seem to get enough air.  By this point Zeke realizes that he may have made a huge mistake by convincing both Steve and Emily that they can go ice diving and that it is perfectly safe.   Fear and regret is written all over Zeke's face when he temporarily loses contact with Emily as she dashes to the surface for air.  Zeke has just come to the realization that he couldn't live with himself if any of his crew members were to get hurt or die.  Zeke states, "I didn't know how to plan for this.  I wish I could just do it all myself."  Truth is, ice diving requires concentration and focus by itself.  Coupling it with dredging, and inexperience simply spells disaster.

Lazy Gator Crew Leader

Lastly, the Lazy Gator crew, with the most primitive dredge in the fleet, continues to put gold in the box.   These guys are 7 miles away on East Beach, which is a public mining zone.  The divers are rewarded with any pickers they find while diving.  Pickers are gold nuggets, and they are finding them left and right (one worth at minimum 5K)!  The only real obstacles they encounter (this episode) are a decrease in visibility while diving shallow water (known as a halocline, where the fresh water and sea water merge), and getting the suction hose clogged with a large rock.  They could install a rock dam at the end of their hose that would take care of the latter. This crew is hardly 'getting rich', but have been most successful of the three expeditions thus far.

Gold Tallys
Lazy Gator  17.52 ounces worth $28,759.08
Shamrock    6.5 ounces worth $10,669.75
The Clark    0 ounces worth nothing

The weather and waves have finally cleared in Nome.  And, the dredging is full speed ahead.  Goldenrod was out for a full day yesterday!  All systems are alas a go.  Let's put some gold in the box!