A passenger aircraft crashes in mid-Pacific and some of the survivors reach an island inhabited only by an American, Jim Taylor, with his Chinese servant, Ping. He declines to help them, telling them to build their own shelter and gather their own food and, though he has a boat and fuel, refusing to take them off. The reason why he wants to remain undisturbed, we learn, is that he is wanted for murder. In time his attitude to the intruders softens as they, despite endless bickering, manage to form a working community and he finds himself increasingly drawn to an attractive young nurse, Anne Wesson, who is running away from her husband. When the boat is prepared for a trip to civilisation, two crooked businessmen from the party steal it with Ping on board. In a fight, he kills them both and, fatally wounded, brings the boat back. The rest can then escape.