To earn money to continue studying opera in Vienna, Austria, 24-year-old mezzo-soprano Emily Riedel returned to her home state of Alaska to follow in her eccentric father’s footsteps and take to the Bering Sea as a deckhand on a dredge seeking gold on the ocean floor.
Little did she know that she would wind up as one of the personalities on Discovery Channel’s Friday hit “Bering Sea Gold” — returning with a preview episode on Dec. 28, and its second season on Jan. 4 — and that her on-again, off-again relationship with childhood friend and boss, Capt. Zeke Tenhoff, would fascinate the viewing public.
“Usually,” Riedel tells Zap2it, “when people recognize me from the show, the first thing they’ll mention is Zeke. That’s a part of our story that people are really drawn to. It’s like, ‘You go, girl, don’t let him boss you around.’ Certain people say the same sort of thing to him about me.”
Admitting there’s a “lot of chaos” in the interaction between the two, Riedel says, “I think people sense the chaos. People are really wondering how to connect to it, how to understand it. I don’t even understand it. It’s complicated.
“There was one point where I would have very much been interested in [something long-term] with Zeke. Unfortunately, that was when things were starting to fall apart in our lives and our operation. So, anyway, that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
At least, this season, Riedel and Tenhoff can get more than a few feet from each other, since Tenhoff has leased a new dredge, called The Edge.
“It was a dredge that was actually remotely seaworthy,” says Riedel, “unlike our previous dredge, the Clark, which was this floating barge that was made of spare parts found around Nome.
“The dredge that we worked on was beautifully made, floating pontoons, working engines and dredge. The whole thing was incredibly functional. It was overwhelming, actually, for us, because we were so used to a really depressing, barely floating operation.”
But, with greater power and capacity came greater danger for the person underwater in the Bering Sea, operating the hose that sucks gravel, rocks and, with any luck, gold from the sea floor.