Animal Planet

Sarajane and her four daughters walk the streets of Nome, Alaska. A show that chronicles their efforts to re-open the mines that their family inherited nearby premiers on Animal Planet on Thursday. (Kyle Safieh / September 24, 2012)

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"It was honoring my father, finishing his dream," Sarajane said.

William was killed when Sarajane was just 17. A woman stabbed him twice, believing he had harmed her half-sister. She spoke only Spanish and he only English, so he could not explain that her half-sister had collapsed from abdominal pain while cutting mushrooms.

In doing the show, the family wanted to put the incident behind them and focus on his legacy.


Filming the show

The first episode of "Alaska Gold Diggers" portrays the women out of place and clueless, yet determined to work hard and succeed in making their efforts — and $60,000 they raised to get the mines up and running — worthwhile.

Gathering at Fashion Island in October for an interview, the five recalled just how different their circumstances were one year ago.

Krista, who says she plugs her nose when she walks into the perfume section of a department store, felt surrounded by the smell of beer, cigarettes, salt and fish in Alaska.

The women endured living conditions drastically different from the Newport Beach home in which they grew up. There was no running water in the roughly 100-year-old cabin where they stayed, they said. The door was built to stave off bears.

The weather dealt the hardest challenges, they said. Rain felt like icicles piercing their skin. The sun seemed never to go down. All concept of time wore away. The ground froze.

The women let their usual makeup routines slide and continued to don multiple layers of clothing day by day.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel," Korre said. "There's the gold."

Without nameing the value, Sarajane said the amount of gold they collected before the weather made mining impossible proved enough to make her want to return this past summer.

"It's like the best Easter egg hunt you could ever imagine," she said.

At Fashion Island, they donned the designer sunglasses that the production team denied them during filming because each woman needed to be identifiable.

When they walked into Neiman Marcus, salespeople identified them just fine, waving hello in recognition as they entered.

And yet, while examining Christian Louboutin heels last week, Tori fielded a call from Alaska with joy in her voice.

"I mean, really, this is what we do," said Sarajane, looking on. "We're shopping and we have to deal with Nome, Alaska."

[For the record, 9:26 a.m. Oct. 11: An earlier version incorrectly reported the girls' nickname for their grandfather was Poppers. It was actually Popper. Also, it incorrectly stated that William Bartholomae came west in 1848. He was not yet born then.]