The title of last night’s episode of Discovery’s Bering Sea Gold is “Gold Stress,” the term those who dredge the bottom of the Bering Sea for treasure use to describe what they feel when they’re coming up empty.
As the show’s executive producer David Pritikin describes it, it’s a high stakes world with all alpha characters chasing a wish-fulfillment dream in the seas near Nome, Alaska, where life itself isn’t easy.
That’s never been clearer than in this hour, which takes a tragic turn when deckhand John Bunce takes his own life.
“Without knowing deep into John’s psyche or the problems that he may have been having, Nome is a depressing place at times for some because it’s cold, it’s harsh, it’s difficult,” David Pritikin says.
“[John Bunce’s best friend] Zeke Tenhoff did mention earlier and throughout the series that John lives his life in extremes, which many of the people do in Nome and on the show. One of his demons, Zeke mentioned, was alcohol.”
Cameras were not with John Bunce at the time, and in the aftermath, which will be shown next week, the crew – from Deadliest Catch producer Thom Beers’ Original Productions – didn’t film anyone who didn’t want to be filmed and waited for those closest to him, Zeke Tenhoff and Emily Riedel, to be ready to talk.
“This is real life, and it took all the wind out of their sails. Their motivation was gone. They were angry at first. It was a very difficult time,” David Pritikin says.
John Bunce’s passing also brought the production team to a halt.“The producers that are assigned to each team, they basically live with these people for three months at a time. They’re with them all day and most of the night and have a true connection and friendship with them. So it affected the crew as well. A guy would be filming a scene and crying, but holding his shot because the scene is about one of his friends that had just passed away…. What we think is important, and what the basis of this show and a lot of the other shows that we do like Deadliest Catch is, is that it’s real. We’re showing people’s lives and not altering them. This is part of their life, this is what happened, and I think to not show it is a disservice to them and to the show itself…. It was a very sad moment that we hope not to have to deal with again.”
John Bunce, 26, ended up killing himself in September 2012, but it is just now airing on the show. This week fans find out about the death and next week they will see the aftermath and how it affects everyone.
John Bunce died in Nome, Alaska, on September 1, 2012.
Born on November 13, 1985 in Portland, Oregon, John Patrick Bunce was someone who lived a life as diverse as many hope to be able to.
John Bunce worked in construction, with computers and as a deckhand, he helped Nomad Shelters build their yurts, he helped his family operate their restaurant, and most recently, he worked up in Nome as a gold dredger and was featured on the reality show Bering Sea Gold as a deckhand and a diver for “The Clark”, which is captained and crewed by several of his childhood friends.