Although the work during the day was unusually strenuous, our evenings were made most profitable and entertaining, both of the yachts being provided with Victrolas and moving picture projectors; the Naroca showing, among other things, very interesting reels of Arctic scenes; the Margo, the sinking of ships during the war by German submarines. The Naroca had aboard a short wave broadcasting outfit and receiving set which kept us in touch with the outside world, enabled us to receive market quotations and to send reports to the press and other messages.
But despite the occasional spotlight, academic appreciation and the status of the sites as among the oldest and most important mining sites in the Western Hemisphere, the ancient miners still languish in relative obscurity. Consider by comparison the Pueblo ruins or the Clovis dig site. A couple of small U.P. towns have sections of their museums devoted to the legacy, but otherwise, there’s a surprising lack of interpretive infrastructure. Much of the preservation is left to locals and amateur archaeologists.
On a temperate morning in early November, Bruce Ruutila and his friend Karen Berg meet me in Syl’s Restaurant, downtown Ontonagon. The area nearby has one of the greatest concentrations of ancient mine pits, and Ruutila, an amateur archaeologist who has lived all but a few of his years as a resident of Ontonagon, has agreed to take me deeper into the world that holds my fascination. Fit and wearing brown Big Bill overalls and a Porcupine Mountain State Park cap, Ruutila looks every bit the man he is, someone who has made a living outdoors, logging, building roads, grooming ski trails.