Ice Cold Gold: Meet Driller Americo DiSantis
By: Jodi Westrick
This Sunday, Animal Planet introduces a cast of eight hard-nosed men hoping to strike it rich in the snow, mountains and beastly elements of Greenland in its new series Ice Cold Gold. Each man comes from a different walk of life and has their own reasons for putting their life in America on hold for two months to head to a place where hidden gems were promised, but not necessarily guaranteed.
Meet Americo DiSantis, one of the men featured on Ice Cold Gold. We had the chance to chat with him and learn more about where he comes from, why he chose to head to Greenland and more.
Animal Planet (AP):Tell us a little about yourself. You’re from Philly and you said in the first episode that you’re not a miner, you’re a driller. What do you do in Philly and how’d you get into drilling?
Americo DiSantis (AD): I've always been in the construction field and have been drilling for about seven years now and got my license about three years ago. What the company I work for (AmeriDrill) specializes in is environmental drilling and directional drilling. We will go to sites and drill down to take soil and water samples so geologists can test it to see if there are contaminants in the ground. We also do geotechnical drillings to see how hard the soil is and how far down you'd need to dig in order to find ground able to support bridges and buildings. But the type of drilling we do that was most important for me while in Greenland was rock coring, where you drill down to bedrock and the core to sample the bedrock and see what's in the ground. It was key for Greenland since it's mostly exposed bedrock.
AD: A general ad was sent to AmeriDrill and my first thought was that it was interesting, but it couldn't be fun. I wasn't going to do anything with it, but then I thought, "what have I got to lose?" I read the literature and they were looking for hardnosed guys to go to Greenland and master the hard country for an opportunity that would pretty much change their lives. Then I realized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. How could you not want to do that? How could you not want to change your life? I decided I was going to do it - go out and give it hell. I wanted to also help change my daughters' lives for the better.
AP: In the first episode you said that you came to Greenland to help your daughters. Without giving too much away, do you feel like you came through for them?
AD: I feel like one of the main things I wanted to change for my daughters was that I didn't want them to struggle like I did when I was younger - I wanted to give them more opportunities. I also wanted to show them that no matter what anyone tells you, you just need to do what's right for you and be confident. I was the newbie on the show. I was called a rookie and didn't have as much experience, but despite all that, I wasn't going to let anyone stop me. I think we set ourselves up for a chance to really make things happen.
AP: Before actually landing in Greenland, what were your expectations? What sort of goals did you have? Did either of those change once you actually landed there?
AD: Well, when I first heard about this, I actually just wanted to go out there and strike it rich. That's what we were going for. I thought I had prepared myself by reading the scale of the mountains on maps. But you get there and realize that it's just massive. Numbers on the computer screen can't capture how massive it is. Similarly, it looks so scary, but, at the same time, it's just so beautiful. It was dangerous and beautiful all at the same time and those are two things you just don't normally see together.
I tried to put myself into the best situation possible with my supplies, but having been there and experienced it, I know a lot more now than I did when I first got there. I think I underestimated Greenland.
AP: Was there anything that you feared before going there?
AD: I had never been camping before. So, I was fearful of literally going out and setting up a tent on an island that was going to be my home for two months or so. That's what I was worried about: Was I going to be able to handle being outside in the elements and the cold for so long having never done it before. It's so unpredictable - the temperatures can drop really low and with the wind-chill can get down to -20 or -10. I was just hoping I could adapt. The first night, I set up my tent and, while I was sleeping, one of the stakes must've pulled up and was flapping in the wind. I'm not a small guy, but I just stayed cowering in my sleeping bag as it moved around all night.
AP: What challenges did Greenland present to you compared to other places you've drilled?
AD: In Greenland, the whole atmosphere is completely different. At home you have access to so much stuff, whereas there, if something goes wrong, you don't have access to anything and you're in the harshest of conditions. Here [in the States] if you get hurt, you simply go to the hospital. But there, if you get hurt, you've got to find a boat, then travel by boat and you've got to set up all sorts of things to get somewhere - you can't just get up and go.
Accessibility was also a huge factor. Getting to places was one thing, but figuring out how to get your supplies was another. You would have to plan out what you needed, but then you'd have to rethink again about what you actually needed to make the trip possible without weighing yourself down or forgetting anything.
AP: What was the most frustrating part of the elements? Rewarding?
AD: It was frustrating being cold and being so out in the elements like that. Once things got wet and cold, you couldn't just put them in the dryer. It would be wet and cold for days. They told you not to get your feet wet, don't get your clothes wet because it would be impossible to stay warm once that happened. You would often sleep with items in your sleeping bag so they'd at least be warm the next day.
As for the rewards, there was something new every day. You could walk and stick your canister into a river of glacier water and just drink it. Every step was a new step, a chance to see something completely new. It was just one postcard picture after the next.
AP: Got anything else to share with us?
AD: When I was there I kind of became friends with one of the locals on the island out where we were. I've played football my whole life and he played handball, but I had no idea what it was except for what I had seen in the Olympics. He taught me how to play and when we had downtime in Nuuk, the capital, he invited me to try out for the Greenland national handball team. So, it was crazy. Suggesting I try out started as a joke, but then I got there and there I was playing handball with the Greenland national team.
Want to learn more about this fascinating new series? Check out this special sneak peek below, visit the show site and tune in Sunday April 21 at 10PM E/P!