There is something about ruins that is haunting, as has been observed by many artists and art critics of generations past. It might have been English art theorist John Ruskin (19th century) who first discussed the matter of the aesthetics of ruins in detail. One inevitably thinks about the passing of one's own life when looking at ruins and pondering the lives that were lived in the construction of things that have been gradually disintegrating and decaying. Such were some of thoughts I had as I was composing another shot of one of my favorite subjects on Isle Royale, the ruins of old docks and cribs. This is one such crib in Crystal Cove, on Amygdaloid Island, where the Johnson family toiled for decades at fishing the Big Lake on the north side of the island. This all took place years before Isle Royale became a national park. Now they are gone, and their docks are no longer used and have been falling into decay, and it all makes me think of the passing of my own life, as a captain and co-boat-owner, who has brought visitors to the island for decades now. And yet everything is so new in the Kilpela family business. We have a new boat, the Queen IV, and a new dock, and other new things. Looking at this ruined dock reminds me to enjoy and cherish this great life, for it too shall some day pass away and slowly become a ruin.
I spent a morning at Crystal Cove on Amygdaloid Island on the north shore of Isle Royale late in the summer. The water was still quite low (it has since risen a great deal with all the rain that has fallen this autumn), so I took the opportunity to walk all the way around the cove. On the way, I went into one of the old storage sheds that were built by the Johnsons about a hundred years ago or so at Crystal Cove. Some of them are rotting away. Inside one, which has no roof any longer, I found this rusted lantern from days of yore. Of course, all such items are historical parts of the national park and as such owned by the people of the United States corporately and should not be removed, which would be in effect stealing. But discovering the lantern brought about some moments of reflection on the lives led by fishermen and their families decades ago on this wild, remote island. That way of life has all passed away. Crystal Cove is such a distant place, so far out in the wilds of Lake Superior, that it is bewildering to think that lives were once lived there and families prospered for a time in the northern wilderness.