• “Bering Sea Gold” is a Discovery Channel reality series following multiple crews dredging for gold in the Bering Sea off the coast of Nome, Alaska.
• The show has aired 13 seasons, and viewers enjoy the dangerous and dramatic events that take place.
• John Bunce was a late crew member of the dredging vessel “The Edge” owned by Zeke Tenhoff.
• John passed away in 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
• The show has been criticized for attempting to use John’s death as viewer bait.
“Bering Sea Gold” is a Discovery Channel reality series that documents the lives of several dredge mining crews operating on the Bering Sea off the coast of Nome, Alaska, as they dive for gold and scour the sea bed for paydirt.
Known as “Gold Divers” in the United Kingdom, the show is split into two segments – one following the multiple crews’ exploits at sea during summer, and the other documenting their gold dredging efforts beneath the ice during winter.
In summer, each of the featured crews who make up the cast members and stars of the show, board mining vessels equipped with dredging gear suitable for the cold conditions of the Bering Sea, shallow waters, but ocean conditions.
Aside from overcoming the difficulties of faulty equipment and turbulent waters, the miners also squabble over dredging rights. Naturally, all the dangers and drama provide viewers with valuable entertainment, earning the show a popular reception that has lasted through thirteen seasons.
During winter, “Bering Sea Gold” documents the journey of the miners as they camp and live in temporary shelters on the frozen waters, and as per usual, they scour the sea bed for valuable paydirt hopefully loaded with gold.
While the show has often been criticised as scripted, the dangers and drama are more often real, and the show has played host to numerous confrontations between disgruntled miners, and of course to tragic events that broke the hearts of viewers and cast members alike. One such event, which happened early during the filming of the “Bering Sea Gold”s second season, was the death of cast member John Bunce.
Unfortunately, not many people know about John’s sad and tragic demise, especially not those who later joined the audience, and as such, many questions are still being asked about Bunce and how he passed away.
If you are one of the many viewers wondering what happened, then this will certainly clear up all the mystery behind John Bunce’s death.
Who Is John Bunce?
John Patrick Bunce was a late crew member of the dredging vessel known as “The Edge”, owned and operated by Zeke Tenhoff, who is both a prominent star on the series and a close friend of Bunce.
Born on 13 November 1985, in Portland, Oregon, John spent most of his early childhood in the town of Estacada, Oregon, being raised by his mother, Noqha Elisi Adkins, and his father, John Patrick Bunce Sr.
According to reports on Bunce’s early life, his father had been estranged from him and his mother, and John would spend his childhood in the company of his single mother, who later moved to Ashland, Oregon, where she worked and studied for a college degree.
Later in life, John and his mother moved to Alaska which became their home, and it was here where John finished his high school education. John attended the North Atlantic Regional High School and later studied at NorthEast State College in Tennessee, before graduating from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks with a degree in Geology and Diesel Mechanics.
John worked numerous jobs, starting at his mother’s family-owned restaurant where he worked as a waiter and dishwasher during his time at school. Following this, John held other positions which included working as a computer technician, lens polisher for an optometrist, as well as a deckhand on a fishing vessel.
Following his college graduation, John worked as a refueler and truck driver for Nome Gold, a drill sampler for MetalLogeny, before becoming more involved in the gold dredging business.
Then in 2012, John joined his good friend Ezekiel “Zeke” Tonhoff on Zekke’s brand new dredging vessel “The Edge”, assisting him in his gold mining endeavour as a seasoned diver. As such, John became a member of “Bering Sea Gold”s cast, and quickly became a fan favourite on the show.
Prior to his appearance in “Bering Sea Gold”, John’s friendship with Zeke had long been established. The two met when they were still young, and at the time of Bunce’s passing, the pair shared eighteen years of friendship.
However, and quite unfortunately, John’s appearance in the series would be short-lived, as later that same year, his life would be cut short. The tragic event was aired during the show’s second season in 2013, though while the miners face many dangers, John did not pass away while working on “The Edge”.
Despite only appearing in one season, John enjoyed several adventures, and made quite a name for himself. Inhis first season, John turned up late, and couldn’t make it in time to join Zeke’s crew, as he drove his girlfriend at the time to the airport.
However, John eventually showed up, and feeling guilty he contacted another vessel’s captain, Emily Riedel, asking if he could board her ship until they found “The Edge”.
However, Emily’s vessel had long since left port, and against Emily’s advice, John decided to swim until he caught up with her boat. As one could expect, the Bering Sea is exceptionally cold, and as a result of prolonged exposure to the cold waters, John suffered a mild case of Hypothermia.
Fortunately, he survived the ordeal, though only because the coast guard was able to spot him in the water and take him to safety. After being discharged from hospital, John went on to work with Zeke for the duration of the summer season.
While on “The Edge”, John was praised for his outstanding hard work whenever he would dive, to such an extent that Zeke often referred to Bunce as a power tool, which in turn earned him the nickname during his stay on “The Edge”.
John’s Unfortunate Suicide
On 1 September 2012, local police authorities in Nome, Alaska responded to a call reporting the death of a resident on First Street. Police would later identify the victim on the call-out as 26-year-old “Bering Sea Gold” star and diver, John Bunce.
Initially, police didn’t make John’s cause of death public, and withheld details about the autopsy report. Sadly, the details of how John passed away would later be made public on the show – according to statements made by Zeke and the show’s producers, John died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
While this cleared up some of the mystery, it raised questions among viewers asking what could have motivated John to commit suicide, what led up to the events of 1 September.
Unfortunately, to protect his family and friends, the details were never made public, and for the viewers of “Bering Sea Gold”, and John’s many admirers, these questions have never been answered.
It’s unclear as to what motivated the young diver to take such drastic action, and it came as something of a shock to viewers, as well as John’s closest friends and family, to learn that he died in such a horrible way.
After all, John was known for being a kind and loving person who enjoyed life to the fullest, and would often hunger for adventure.
Despite providing no answers to explain why John took his own life, “Bering Sea Gold”s producers later released a statement in which they explained that John’s ashes were scattered over Norton Sound in the Bering Sea, close to the Southern Seward Peninsula Coast. Along with this the producers also released a commemorative message, expressing their condolences towards John’s family and friends.
As could be expected, the impact of John’s passing and the way the show treated it earned backlash from the viewers, who all felt that “Bering Sea Gold” tried to exploit the incident to improve ratings.
In fact, during sneak peeks into the latest season, the show made it seem as if Bunce died while diving, and many viewers thought that the accident might be aired on the show.
Of course, this earned the producers and the show a lot of angry berating, and many felt that they should have been more honest about what happened, instead of using John’s death as viewer bait.