Published August 24, 2012
What do you do when you are a 24-year-old, struggling female opera singer? If you’re Emily Riedel, you risk your life diving and digging for gold in the harrowing Bering Sea outside of Nome, Alaska.
One moment Riedel was in Vienna pursuing her passion and dream of singing – alone in a foreign country, incredibly stressed without a penny to her name. The next moment, she found herself with a group of thrill-seeking males in the brutal Arctic winter, trapped beneath four feet of solid ice on the Bering Sea floor in a 10-foot square hole, determined to strike gold despite death staring her in the face the entire time.
“At first I wondered why a sane person would ever do something so dangerous and potentially lethal. I really had to question whether I was ready to face death and if I could get beyond my fear of drowning,” Riedel, whose adventures have been captured on the new Thom Beers-produced Discovery series “Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice.” “There were many times when I had to tell myself to be tough, the psychological aspect of it all was very tough, and there were so many things that could go wrong.”
And on numerous occasions, it almost did.
“We had a lot of close (death) calls, operating unpredictable equipment, knowing that at any time our air supply could stop,” she continued. “I learned a lot of lessons; I learned that I am mortal. I became very aware of the thin veil between life and death. I’m actually surprised none of us hit the bucket... It was such an intense experience. It is just you and God down there.”
Like her co-divers, Riedel simply set out to make enough money to continue chasing her dreams. Her only goal was to make enough money to return to Vienna to continue her musical studies – although her practice never waned, and she drove the show producers crazy with her incessant note-hitting.
“The American Dream is very much alive as you can see on ‘Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice,’ people are finding it in the most unlikely and challenging places,” explained Nancy Daniels, Executive Vice President of Production and Development at the Discovery Channel. “Cutting a hole through four feet thick ice and diving to the bottom of the Bering Sea, these modern-day gold miners show their determination and grit, and the depths they will go to earn a living.”
Yet despite nearly losing her own life on multiple occasions, Riedel would be down to dive deep again – with a modification or two.
“It is the most challenging thing I have ever done or will ever do, but I would do it again,” she added. “Maybe make sure it is a little safer next time.”
“Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice” premieres on the Discovery Channel Friday, August 24 at 9 p.m.