The literary critic Gamfrey van Weyden (a novel written on his face) is shipwrecked on his way to San Francisco. The drowning vessel is picked up by the ship Ghost, bound for Japan for hunting seals.
In front of Gamfrey, the navigator dies: before the sailing he was very tight, he could not bring himself to life. The captain of the ship, Wolf Larsen, remains without an assistant. He orders to throw the body of the deceased overboard. The words from the Bible, necessary for burial, he prefers to replace with the phrase: “And the remains will be lowered into the water.”
The captain’s face gives the impression of “a terrible, crushing mental or spiritual force.” He offers van Weyden, a pampered gentleman, living at the expense of the family, to become a cabin boy. Watching the captain’s reprisal with the young boy George Lich, who refused to go into the rank of sailor, Gamfrey, not accustomed to brute force, obeys Larsen.
Van Weyden receives the nickname “Hump” and works in a galley with cocaine by Thomas Muggridge. Earlier, the fawning before Humphrey was now rude and cruel. For their mistakes or insubordination, the entire crew receives beatings from Larsen, Gamfrey also gets.
Soon, Van Weyden reveals the captain on the other side: Larsen reads books – he is self-educated. Between them, there are often conversations about the law, ethics and immortality of the soul, in which Gamfrey believes, but
For Larsen’s special attention to Humphrey, the cook is angry even more. He constantly sharpens a knife in a galley for a young man, trying to intimidate van Weiden. He confesses to Larsen that he is afraid, to which the captain with a sneer notices: “How is it… you will live forever?” You are a god, but you can not kill God. ” Then Gamfrey lends a knife to the sailor and also starts demonstratively sharpening it. Mugridge offers the world and since then has behaved with a critic even more obsequiously than with the captain.
In the presence of van Weyden, the captain and the new navigator beat the proud sailor Johnson for his straightforwardness and his reluctance to submit to the brutal whims of Larsen. Lich bandages the wounds of Johnson and, at all, calls Wolf a murderer and a coward. The crew is frightened by his boldness, Gamfrey is delighted with Leach.
Soon the navigator disappears. Gamphrey sees Larsen crawling over the side of the ship with a bloody face. He goes to the tank where the sailors sleep to find the culprit. Suddenly they attack Larsen. After numerous beatings, he manages to get away from the sailors.
The captain appoints Humphrey as the navigator. Now everyone should call him “Mr. van Weyden”. He successfully uses the advice of sailors.
The relationship between Leach and Larsen is growing more and more. The captain considers Gamfrey a coward: his morality is on the side of the noble Johnson and Leach, but instead of helping them to kill Larsen, he stays away.
Boats from the “Ghost” go into the sea. The weather changes dramatically and a storm breaks out. Thanks to the maritime skill Wolf Larsen manages to save and return to the ship almost all the boats.
Suddenly, Leach and Johnson disappear. Larsen wants to find them, but instead of fugitives the crew notices a boat with five passengers. Among them is a woman.
Unexpectedly, Johnson and Leech are noticed in the sea. The stricken van Weyden promises Larsen to kill him if the captain again starts torturing the sailors. Wolf Larsen promises not to touch them and a finger. The weather is deteriorating, the captain is playing with them, while Leach and Johnson are desperately struggling with the elements. Finally they are turned over by a wave.
The rescued woman herself earns her living, which fascinates Larsen. Gamfrey recognizes in her the writer Maud Brewster, she also knows that van Weyden is a critic, flatteringly criticizing her writings.
A new victim of Larsen becomes Mugridge. The cafe is tied to a rope and dipped into the sea. The shark bites off his foot. Maud reproaches Humphrey for inaction: he did not even try to prevent mockery of the coca. But the navigator explains that in this floating world there is no right to survive, there is no need to argue with the monster captain.
Mod is a “fragile, ethereal creature, slender, with flexible movements.” She has the right face, chestnut hair and expressive brown eyes. Watching her conversation with the captain, Gamfrey catches a warm gleam in Larsen’s eyes. Now Van Weyden understands how Miss Brewster is dear to him.
“Ghost” meets in the sea with “Macedonia” – the ship of Brother Wolf, Death-Larsen. The brother conducts the maneuver and leaves the hunters of the “Ghost” without prey. Larsen realizes a cunning plan of revenge and takes the sailors of his brother to his ship. “Macedonia” is chasing, but the “Ghost” is hiding in the fog.
In the evening, Gamfrey sees Captain Maud beating in the arms. Suddenly he lets go of her: Larsen has a headache. Humphrey wants to kill the captain, but Miss Brewster stops him. The two of them leave the ship at night.
A few days later, Humphrey and Maud get to the Effort Island. There are no people there, only rookeries of seals. The fugitives are standing huts on the island – they will have to spend the winter here, they can not reach the shore by boat.
One morning, van Weyden discovers “Ghost” near the shore. He’s only a captain. Humphrey does not dare to kill Wolff: morality is stronger than him. His entire crew enticed Death-Larsen to him, offering a large fee. Soon van Weyden realizes that Larsen is blind.
Humphrey and Mod decide to restore the broken masts to sail off the island. But Larsen is against: he will not allow them to manage on his ship. Mod and Gamfri work all day, but during the night, Wolf destroys everything. They continue the restoration work. The captain makes an attempt to kill Gamfrey, but Maud rescues him by striking Larsen with a baton. With him, a seizure occurs, first the right one is removed, and then the left side.
The “Ghost” is set off. Wolf Larsen dies. Van Weyden sends his body into the sea with the words: “And the remains will be lowered into the water.”
An American customs vessel appears: Maud and Gamfrey are rescued. At this moment they explain each other in love.