William K. Vanderbilt II (Jr.), his wife Rosamund, his friends Mr. and Mrs. Earle Smith and crew set on a world cruise in 1931 aboard his beautiful 265-foot yacht Alva. They departed Long Island and traveled through the Panama Canal to the Galapagos Islands, the Society Islands, Samoa, Australia, Java, Bora Bora, Bali, Singapore, Ceylon, Arabia, through the Suez Canal to Cairo, Athens and Monte Carlo and westward across the Atlantic to America.
The cruise was documented in a seventy-minute film “Over the Seas” which opened in December 1932 in New York City. It is the only known record of Willie K.'s voice. A 1933 review of the film by the New York Times film critic Mordaunt Hall is below.
The film is available at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum with all rights reserved. Highlights of the film are shown on this website with permission of the Museum.
Review: Over the Seven Seas (1932)
Motion Picture Record of William K. Vanderbilt's World Cruise Shown at the Plaza.
By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: New York Times, May 24, 1933
William K. Vanderbilt's pictorial record of his world cruise aboard his yacht, Alva, is now on exhibition at the Plaza Theatre. It is called "Over the Seven Seas" and is an extremely interesting compilation of scenes, with a few sequences pictured by the multicolor process. The main purpose of the voyage was to gather specimens of marine fauna for the Vanderbilt Marine Museum at Northport, L. I.
Several impressive glimpses of the Alva are shown. This lovely yacht is 265 feet in length, 48 feet beam and 19 feet draft. Mr. Vanderbilt is a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Naval Reserve and on the tour with him were Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mr. and Mrs. Earl E. T. Smith. The yacht's crew numbered fifty-one. Twice during the 29,000-mile voyage the Alva was dry-docked. Good as is the film, it is to be regretted that Mr. Vanderbilt did not attempt to show more of the yacht—some interior scenes for instance.
Early on the trip, which was started in July, 1931, the Alva is perceived being escorted by playful porpoises. Later Mrs. Vanderbilt enjoys the thrill of catching a shark and on the same day a fine specimen of tuna is hooked.
The Alva goes through both the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal. There are, of course, the usual Polynesian dances and the beautiful females of Bora Bora and Bali. Strange sailing craft crawl across the screen in some views and iguanas are caught by their tails in others. One loiters on the coast of Java and gets a fair conception of the heat of Singapore and the charm of Ceylon. Not the least lovely sights are those of Monte Carlo and Monaco Bay, which are contrasted a few moments later with flashes of the Atlantic in an angry mood.
The views are neatly assembled and Mr. Vanderbilt himself gives a microphonic lecture, which is informative without ever being melodramatic, as such running comments are only too frequently.
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