Mysteries all – it’s been a multinational week


If you wondered whether the world had its collective eye on Martha’s Vineyard during the last 10 days or so, well, the truth is that there is no certain way to know. If you lived on another island, say St. Kitts, St Maarten, or Nevis, you may have had your eye on hurricane Earl. If you were en route in your trusted Beetle Cat from Scituate to Land’s End, you may have been focused on Danielle, and who could blame you.

But, for sure, if you were hanging with the Obamas et al on Martha’s Vineyard, and allowing for the unquenchably high esteem in which Vineyarders hold themselves, you were doubtlessly gazing navel-ward. The Vineyard was where it, whatever you think it is, was happening. And to judge from Google’s reporting on activity on, the world for once was paying attention, and following along, as it should. For the 10 days between August 19 and August 29, a total of 91,183 visitors from 143 countries and territories tramped through The Times site. Looking for God knows what. You have to wonder.

I mean, the lone Bolivian, or the Djiboutian, or the Kyrgyzstanian — they certainly weren’t looking for the movie playing at the Capawock. It’s hard to believe they were after the pool reports on the president’s mostly invisible visit. If they were after the flavor of Martha’s Vineyard, the chosen spot for chief executive relaxation, they must have got a mystifying sense of the place. After all, The Fair, the beaches, the Flying Horses, the fireworks, Illumination Night — all celebrated features of the place as a summer place — were, none of them, experienced by the Obamas. There were golf courses, but there are lots of golf courses in other vacation spots. There were terrific restaurants, and family takeout places, but those are not uncommon either.

Perhaps the visitors from Luxembourg, Chile, Senegal, and Jordan wondered if there’d be a coup d’état in Oak Bluffs over the fish pier plan or a military takeover of Washington, D.C. while the president played hoops at the Oak Bluffs School.

The Saudi Arabian visitors were probably aware of our devotion to wind turbines, and they worry that demand for black gold may fall. The Chinese and the Swiss visitors may have speculated that there was a Martha’s Vineyard currency — the gull? — that might be pressured in the currency markets.

What about the British? After all, we have a special relationship with the British, and during the Bush years the British government was accused, rather viciously, of me-tooism where the U.S. was concerned. Is there any evidence that Brits were watching Martha’s Vineyard to find the recipe for chief executive vacationing success? Some, I think. U.K. visitors were the second most numerous among non-U.S. site explorers. Maybe it’s just that we’re friends. But how to explain Canada, which was first among non-U.S. visitors? The Canadians haven’t always adored us the way we need to be adored. Perhaps, attitudes are changing. Given all the problems we face here, the Canadians may have decided, once and for all, that we’re not going to make a move to annex them.

Apart from where the visitors originated and leaving aside the mysteries of why some of them came and for what, worldwide visitors to during the president’s vacation added up to nearly three times the average weekly visitor toll during the first quarter of the year. It’s a bonanza, but the deeper question, the one that eludes answering, persists — who are these people, and what are they after?