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!