Opera Singer Puts Down Microphone to Become Successful Gold Dredge Captain in Alaska

Emily Riedel is apparently a woman who enjoys a good challenge.

The former opera singer was already in a competitive industry, just being in the arts.

In 2012, at the tender age of 21, she decided to take the summer off in an attempt to make some money dredging gold in Alaska. Her original plan was to go to Europe that fall to pursue a master’s degree in opera.

“It’s crazy to think about. I wanted to fund a master’s degree in opera abroad. A friend of mine invited me up [here] to give it a shot, and I was like, ‘Why not?’ Why not gold mine?’” Riedel told Fox Business.

Shortly after her arrival, Discovery Channel showed up to film a new series, “Bering Sea Gold.” The producers felt that the concept of a woman in the dredging industry would make an interesting twist.

That opportunity brought a big change to Riedel’s plans and shifted her career direction.

Since then, her story has been chronicled on the reality TV series.

Looking back, Riedel said, “I can’t even imagine what was going on in my 21-year-old brain back in the day… It was only going to be a summer job,” Fox Business reported.

“But I think what kept me at it was this sense [that] this is hard, this is difficult to accomplish. And the fact that it was so difficult to do and that I saw so many people failing at it, it just sort of ignited this fire in me to succeed, to make it work. And that fire has burned [in] me through 12 years of trying to be a gold miner and just succeeding.”

It hasn’t hurt that the TV show was a hit. “Every year it’s been a surprise to me that the show is still going on,” Riedel told Distractify.

Since those early days, she has worked hard to be one of the most successful gold dredge captains in Nome, Alaska. She’s the only female captain in the fleet and owns her own vessel, “The Eroica,” named after Beethoven’s Third Symphony. The name means “heroic,” according to PBS’s Keeping Score.

Riedel is the first woman to dredge for gold in Alaska’s Bering Sea, according to IMDB.

Her methods vary drastically from those of Nome’s first prospectors in the early part of the 20th century. Back then, thousands flocked to the area to pull gold out of the nearby creeks, according to the Alaska Historical Society. Later, they discovered that even the town’s beaches contained gold dust.

In recent decades, enterprising miners have used specially equipped boats to scoop up sand and extract gold dust from the sea floor, far beyond the shoreline.

Since she had grown up in Alaska, Riedel already had a sense of what living there would be like — especially the challenging winters, when temperatures can plummet to 20 or 30 degrees below zero.

It has taken a great deal of time and work for her to earn the respect of those working in what is a very male-dominated industry.

Over the course of her career journey, she made friends with Alaskan influencer and celebrity Jane Kilcher, according to Distractify.

Kilcher’s family has their own show on Discovery called “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” Jane Kilcher will be appearing in “Bering Sea Gold,” during the course of the 2022 – 2023 season.

Kilcher said she planned to watch the show with her friend Riedel. “It is 2022 … and I am still in a man’s world,” she remarked on social media, according to Distractify. “Super grateful though to kick butt with Emily Riedel.”

Emily responded, “This season is so crazy lol I don’t know what I would’ve done without you — can’t wait to see it!”

“Bering Sea Gold” has inspired something of a modern-day gold rush, attracting more prospectors to the area each year who hope to strike it rich by digging up the sea floor, according to ArcticToday.

Riedel has an interesting perspective on striking it rich: “I think the notion of striking it rich is a matter of opinion,” she told Fox.

“What does it mean to strike it rich? Could you go up to Nome as a new person and make 20 grand in a single day?

“Yes, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I think that’s unlikely … If you want to be a gold miner and come to Nome, I welcome you to the job, but be prepared for several years of hard labor and hard knocks.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.