Friday, March 16, 2012

Bering Sea Gold

If you haven't caught this show yet, I'd recommend it.  Just don't tune in hoping to see hardened professionals dredging gold.  Rather, this show tells the story of desperate psychopaths trying against all odds to dig gold off the sea floor using equipment that is constantly falling apart.

There are several things in this show that hint at endemically poor impulse control.

In one scene you'll see a guy digging solo make $11k in a single shift. He accomplishes this by digging further out than the boat is meant to go. The show constantly reminds you that the coarser gold is further out. And yet, not one of these crews is running a purpose built sea dredger. Most of these ships aren't much sturdier than a 2 man rowboat.

You'd never see this on Deadliest Catch. Some ships are bigger, and some are smaller, but at least they are all crabbing vessels. They all use essentially the same crabpots and winches and coilers - the tools of the trade to get the job done. There is an established workflow, developed over centuries of experience.  Meanwhile, on Bering Sea Gold, time is constantly wasted due to shitty equipment (and shittier crews).

My point is, there's money being made out there, however it is evident that none of it is being reinvested into the business. A stable, well maintained purpose-built vessel could support several divers at once - much further out to sea. They'd have the room to classify their dirt without returning to shore - possibly without even pausing the dredging operation. A setup like that, and you could rake in millions, instead of mere thousands. More importantly, you could repeat the results without having to worry about time lost because your compressor ignition got a little water splashed on it.

It seems that there is an irresponsibility inherent to this profession - the dilapidated gear is a symptom - not the problem. Which brings us to...

The Crews of Bering Sea Gold

The Christine Rose
AKA: The 'Redneck Ambition'

I count 6 things that are about to go hilariously wrong

Little more than a motorized barge with a backhoe on one end and a trailer installed on the other. In other words, this is the closest thing to a seaworthy vessel on the show.  You will see members of this crew injured either due to inattention, or because some rusted out chunk of slag decided to give at just the right moment. For the most part, it's not that what they're doing is particularly dangerous, for someone with half the sense to keep an eye open - it's simply an aggressive indifference for personal safety.

Here are some 'para-quotes' that nicely illustrate my point

"I was bent over right next to the backhoe while you were running it, and you hit me with it"
"It's not my job to watch out for you"
"I was just telling them not to stand here, because it's a red zone - and that's when the cable snapped and dragged me into the water."

Remember when you were a kid, and every now and then you'd visit the trashy redneck cousins?  Or maybe it was someone else's cousins, or maybe you were the trashy redneck cousin?  Don't get stuck on details here...  Remember how it was inevitable that at some point someone would build a bike ramp out of wet particle board and nails, right next to a cliff overlooking a vertical brier patch and a freeway? And it went wrong every time, for reasons that were starkly obvious to anyone that was paying attention. They'd try out their bike ramp, or whatever, and eat total shit in predictably brutal fashion - and then they'd be completely baffled that their plan didn't work, blaming everything but their own inattention to detail?

Take that experience, and distill it into boat form, and you've got the Christine Rose.

I personally thought it was hilarious watching one of the crew members loudmouth his way off the most successful boat on the show.

Claim to fame: Their star backhoe operator getting stabbed in a bar fight.

The Clark

AKA: The 'if there's only one chick, she'll be the hottest one'

That can't be remotely safe...

I've got nothing to say that that picture hasn't made abundantly clear. It looks like a rejected art project from Burning Man. This thing isn't landworthy - much less seaworthy.

This is the boat with a woman on it. Manufactured one-sided sexual tension has never been so transparent - or creepy. At first glance, you might think the captain is a very progressive guy. At least, until you realize that he is unwilling to train her or work her like a man. Why'd you bring her in the first place, Skip?  Oh, that's right.  Reality Show Law: Every reality show requires precisely 1 woman, who by virtue of being the only female in the primary cast is the de facto hot chick on the show (e.g. Sons of Guns, Oddities, American Pickers, et al).

I don't like watching this team, because the thinly veiled whiny awkward man-angst makes me ashamed to share a gender with this passive-aggresive hipster douche.  Meanwhile, in spite of clearly being aware of this dynamic, the chick is totally taking advantage of this guy while intentionally hitting on dudes in front of him just to fuck with him.  Instead of feeling sorry for anyone, I just end up disliking both of these cockbags all the more.

Claim to fame: There is a bitch on the boat. And the other one is a woman.

The Sluicey
AKA:  The 'Even shittier than the Clark, somehow'

This vessel was presumably found floating a few miles off the shore of Florida.

Ironically, because the shipmates have taken to working solo in shifts they aren't losing any time to politics and bickering which means they're one of the only boats that's actually pulling gold out of the ocean.  Still, the perpetually inoperative equipment almost makes up for it.  

Claim to fame:  These guys seem well adjusted, comparatively.

The Wild Ranger
AKA:  The 'Psychotic Episode'
The rot is on the inside.

This ship is owned by a guy who (according to the show) knows nothing about ships or gold mining, and even less about staffing.  Ultimately, this crew is the reason you are watching the show.  At first, you want to like ship's captain Scott Meisterheim.  He's charismatic, and has a relatable story.  You kind of hope for him to be the show's Sig Hansen, if only because he looks the part.  Except that he's not Sig Hansen.  Nor is he Jim Henson, Taylor Hanson, or even Hans Moleman.  In fact, it is quite clear that his temperament makes him uniquely ill-suited for leadership.  Naturally they've paired him up with a chap who is equally ill-suited to accepting leadership.  Every episode centers around Scott, and his psychotic outbursts.

By the end of the season the Wild Ranger comes in dead last, harvesting only three quarters of an ounce of gold.  That might seem like a spoiler, but trust me, you'd have figured that out just by watching the first episode.

The unspoken message here is clear:  The real untapped gold is in providing psychological and mediation services for these jackholes.

Just make sure to get your cash up front.