The yawning sinkhole on Old County Road in Rockland has captivated the attention of the public, not just locally, but in the broader state. The story has become a media focus as cameras probe every angle of the hole, and the Maine Department of Transportation geophysicist uses radar to discern if an underground tunnel laces beneath pavement and grass at the Rockland Golf Course.

This is obviously no ordinary hole, and its origin lies in the history of the Midcoast more than 100 years ago when the region thrived on the dirty and dusty mining of limestone. That history is a relic to us as we zip alongside the webs of old quarries, some filled with trash, others with water, and still others remaining empty, rock-sided holes in the ground.

At Marine Park in Rockport, vestigial lime kilns and a train engine give us a sense of a storied past when rail lines snaked from inland quarries to the harbors, carrying limestone that was shipped out to the larger cities. The industry helped to make Midcoast Maine an economically thriving region, and also made a number of citizens wealthy. The geological vein that fed the industry threads through Lincolnville to Thomaston, and the still-open quarries, unfortunately, are causing us headaches. They are dangerous and few forget the tragic deaths of those who have driven into them. The latest problem courtesy of old quarries has taken out a major local commuter route, forcing many daily drivers to find another road.

But the exciting part of the sinkhole is that it reminds us how rich our local history is. Luckily, a lot of citizens, libraries, museums, historical societies, even garden clubs, have taken note and constantly provide a new lens through which to look back. This is not just a social diversion; looking back is how we get to know ourselves, and understand how to move into the future a little smarter and wiser.

“A country without a memory is a country of madmen,” according to philosopher George Santayana. Well, we’re not exactly at risk of going mad, but we are better off cultivating a collective memory to help us navigate ahead. For too long, Mainers in general regarded their history as not much of value. That, thankfully, has changed over the past few decades. New mapping techniques and computer technology have moved the documentation of history light years ahead. The New York Times Web site currently features an amazing interactive map that overlays 2006 aerial photos of New York City over aerial shots of the same city in 1924. Zoom in on a block and one gets two images, one of today and one of almost 90 years ago. Time travel.

We look forward to hearing what the DOT geophysical and engineering studies of Old County Road produce, because we’re betting that similar road collapses, or even property collapses, near or over old quarries could happen elsewhere in the region. And this is not even earthquake territory.

Good luck to Camden Hills

Good luck to the Camden Hills Regional High School boys basketball team, which will shoot for its sixth state Class B championship in 12 years when the Windjammers play Falmouth on Friday, Feb. 26 at 9 p.m. at the Bangor Auditorium.