Update November 11th, 2022: We have finally gotten a release date for Season 15 of Bering Sea Gold! Mark your calendars as our favorite show, Bering Sea Gold Season 15 returns on Tuesday, December 6th, 2022 at 8pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel and Discovery+!
Our most-asked question recently at Bering Sea Paydirt – your #1 source of information about gold mining in the Bering Sea – is “What happened to Shawn Pomrenke’s Mega Dredge?”
It’s a question we’ve been trying to answer for months, and on my recent trip to Nome I got the chance to ask Mr. Gold directly about his future plans for the monster floating gold barge.
He was gracious enough to talk to me after I cornered him at the local watering hole, Breakers, for a quick interview – and revealed the true story behind the Mega Dredge and his shocking future plans for building the Bering Sea’s largest offshore gold mining vessel!
The Backstory on Shawn’s Mega Dredge
For almost 10 years we’ve been hearing Shawn Pomrenke talk about the Mega Dredge on Bering Sea Gold.
Steve Pomrenke, Shawn’s dad, didn’t express much confidence in the project when Shawn took him to go see the rusting barge called the Tuvli 160.
But Mr. Gold was determined to turn the 160-foot barge into a gold-gobbling beast. Once finished, he said, she’d be the largest gold dredge on the Bering Sea.
Getting the barge to Nome and onto the beach was a massive feat in itself but that turned out to be the easiest part of an extremely challenging venture.
First, Shawn found himself pulled in a few different directions financially. While he was running the Christine Rose and laying the foundations for the mega dredge, Steve Pomrenke tapped his son to invest a few million dollars in the family’s inland mine. In an effort to help fund the new inland mining projects plus his Mega Dredge, Shawn took a gamble of mining at Bluff in an effort to find enough gold to cover it all.
Unfortunately, he didn’t find nearly enough gold and plans were once again put on hold for the big barge.
Never to let a bad season keep him down, Mr. Gold came back swinging the next summer and was able to get his dad’s inland dream up and running while starting the renovations on his dream dredge but then that’s where it stopped. After the initial start of building, the project fell to the wayside again as Shawn was already millions of dollars into buying and building the dredge.
To get the funds he needed, Shawn turned to outside investors to help fund the rest of the Mega Dredge build. As we saw on Bering Sea Gold, that turned out to be a disaster with Shawn having to buy back the Christine Rose and the Mega Dredge from bankruptcy after a shady business partner stole the money.
Even then we all thought Shawn was still planning on going ahead with the Mega Dredge renovations, which was why Mr. Gold’s next move left many fans puzzled. He ended up putting over $800,000 into rebuilding the Myrtle Irene and running that last season with almost no mention of the Mega Dredge.
That left many of us wondering, what did that mean for the future of the biggest dredge in the Bering Sea?
Our Exclusive Interview with Mr. Gold About the real story behind the Mega Dredge
When I asked him why the barge wasn’t in the water, Shawn referenced ABS regulations about load line and hull thickness as reasons why the project is on hold.
The boat’s steel hull needs to be within 25% of its original thickness, and as an old Liberty ship the Tuvli 160 had parts of the hull where it wasn’t thick enough. Shipbuilders were asking $2 million to fix the old barge, which Shawn said would be about what he could expect to profit from the large offshore dredge.
Due to the cost of reinforcing the hull, the project would be too expensive to be completed, according to Mr. Gold.
This version of the Mega Dredge isn’t going to happen, but that doesn’t mean the idea is dead.
I asked Shawn, “So the Mega Dredge is done?”
And he said, “not done, just Plan B.”
“I’m going to build a new one from the ground up.” Mr. Gold continued, “I want to be able to go out to 60 feet and stay out from the time the ice melts to when it starts to come back in. It’s just the right tools haven’t been made yet.”
Judging by the ingenuity we’ve seen from Shawn Pomrenke over the years, we expect he plans on being the one to build the right tools for his new vision. Could he be working on them right now?
When I pressed for more details, he kept his cards close to his chest, only commenting ‘both’ when I asked if it was going to be another excavator type dredge or a suction crawler type one.
So there we have it, folks, straight from Shawn himself! While the Mega Dredge project as he envisioned it originally is a no go, he has fresh plans to build a new one from the ground up! And his plans are to break the 30 foot barrier and go all the way to 60 feet. That is huge news!
Right now all our favorite miners are hovering around the 30 foot depth, but everyone knows that they’re going to have to find ways to safely go out deeper as the gold is getting harder and harder to find in the more shallow waters. While I didn’t get the chance to ask Mr. Gold all the questions I had, he did tell me we could talk again so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss out!
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