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Crusher McKay, the tough engineer aboard the passenger ship the S.S. Arcturus , is both beloved and feared by his men. Also onboard the ship is Doc Tony Craig, who has signed on the San Francisco bound trip in Shanghai to be near his former sweetheart, nurse Ann Grayson. Crusher is also attracted to the nurse, and his clumsy courtship creates a rivalry between him and Doc. In mid-ocean, a Chinese stowaway infected with cholera is discovered below decks and panic breaks out. After Crusher orders the doors bolted to the decks above, Doc, who is trying to prevent the spread of the disease, clashes with Crusher, who is battling to keep his men at the task of firing the ship's boilers. Meanwhile, above decks, the passengers are blissfully unaware of the terror below as one by one the crew are stricken with the dread disease. Ann and Doc, thrown together in their struggle to save the men, rekindle their love, and Doc resolves to give up his wanderlust for Ann. As more men fall ill, Crusher takes up the shovel to stoke the engines day and night until he, too, is stricken. In Crusher's absence, the men's morale plummets, pushing them to mutiny. While Doc tries to stave off the mutiny, Crusher rises from his bed to force his men back to work, and guided by Crusher's determination, the S.S. Arcturus safely reaches port.