Why is there gold in the Bering Sea?

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Written By Monica

Everyone has a theory on how gold made its way into the Bering Sea.

The book Nome: City of the Golden Beaches, which is the best book we’ve found about the history of the Nome Gold Rush, details the most popular theories of the last century.

And we put them all together for you!

Watch the video on Youtube instead!

Stardust: Your stoner friend’s theory

did meteors bring gold

Peter Trout, a Nome beach miner back in 1899, was convinced that the gold fell from the sky. In the book, Nome: City of the Golden Beaches, he says gold in the Bering Sea comes from the sky from “star mist.” He stated that his experiences mining on the Nome beach proved his theory that gold came from outer space.

We love to hear that gold miners were also crazy back in the day!

Peter goes on to explain how millions of fine particles of gold fell from meteor showers and settled all over the world, washing up on the shores. Some areas got more gold than others, he thought, because areas with a lot of gold were where meteors loaded with gold crashed in prehistoric times.

The Ocean Floor is Shedding Gold: The old time prospector theory

gold rush theories

Old time prospectors during the original Nome Gold Rush believed gold came from the bottom of the Bering Sea and that the entire sea floor was loaded with gold.

They thought waves washed the gold up the beaches and closer to the shore. And when a huge storm hit the Bering Sea it stirred up the bottom, bringing all that gold to the shore and along the beach.

Geologists later determined that gold on the Nome beaches wasn’t from the sea but coming from the tundra. But that didn’t stop others from having their own theories…

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Real Gold Pay Dirt from Bering Sea Gold

Volcanos Spewing Golden Ash: Your other stoner friend’s theory

do volcanoes erupt gold

One of our favorite theories is that the gold is from volcanic eruptions on the Aleutian Islands.

Volcanic eruptions spewed out large amounts of gold-bearing ash. That ash deposited the gold into the Bering Sea over hundreds of thousands of years mixing with the sediments on the ocean floor. Ocean currents then carried large amounts of that gold-bearing sediment close to the shores all along Alaska.

This was a popular theory put forth by Charles D. Lane, one of the wealthiest investor and capitalist in Nome’s early years.

“My readings of books of nature tells me that the beach gold’s source is not some hidden quartz ledge. I think it is the product of pent-up forces, through volcanic eruption, possibly in the earth. It came from deep down in the bowels of the earth. These forces eventually belched forth the gold, which was probably washed back on the beach a short distance by the tides.”

Charles D Lane, Nome “City of the Golden Beaches”

Lane pointed out that he knew his theory was at odds with the scientific community but that it ultimately didn’t matter who was right. “I dig the gold from the ground where I find it,” he said, “having no time for theories. If I fail to find it, I move on.”

Rivers & Glaciers Eroding Lode Deposits: The geologist’s theory

did glaciers move gold

Gold was brought to the Bering Sea by rivers. During the Ice Age, glaciers blocked many rivers in northern Europe and North America, including the Bering Sea. As the glaciers melted, the rivers were unblocked and began to flow again. The flowing water eroded the mountains, breaking off the flakes of gold from large lode deposits higher in the mountains. The gold particles were washed down the rivers and deposited in the Bering Sea.

This seems most plausible, as the mountains above the town of Nome (i.e. Anvil Mountain) contained the richest deposits of gold found.

Another popular version with scientists is that gold was deposited in the sea by glaciers. During the last Ice Age, glaciers covered large parts of northern Europe and North America, including the Bering Sea. As the glaciers moved, they carried rocks and particles of gold with them. As the glaciers melted, the gold was left behind in the Bering Sea.

Who cares?: The gold miner’s theory

Emily Riedel Bering Sea Gold

Who cares how it got there? Real miners just want to get it out!

While some of these theories are more believable than others, in the end it doesn’t matter how the gold got there. What matters is how much we can recover!

Real Gold by Emily Riedel from Bering Sea Gold

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4 thoughts on “Why is there gold in the Bering Sea?”

  1. Yeah, Geology. I love the rare minerals now, too, though it’s associated more with hard-rock mining. Still, a Nome mystery remains unexplained; Where is all that gold coming from that perennially replenishes its off-shore shallows? It seems to grow in proportion to the increase in miners, year after year. How far out does the pay streak extend, and at what depths? What do the geological surveys suggest about how the gold will play out or is it an endless supply?

    • I don’t think it replenishes perennially. Our experience says the gold closest to shore is being recovered and dredgers are being pushed further out. It’s likely a ticking clock for the diver dredges unless the gold price goes very high!

      • If you’re forced too far off land for regular diving, will you consider doing the step towards deep diving with hypoxic gas, or more like a mechanical clamshell barge or something like that?

        • Neither! We would just motor further from town looking for gold along the coast before either of those options. The mechanical barges don’t dig that deep either. I don’t have the capital or patience to do build something like that and I don’t have the stomach for very deep diving.


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