BOSTON - AMERICA - 1830's - David Robinson finds the comfortable life as chief clerk in his father-in-law's shipping firm tedious . He accepts the offer to open a new branch for the firm in Canton in China, and embarks with his wife Elizabeth and children, Ernst, Joanna and Christina and the family dog, Bruno, on the perilous sailing voyage. Aboard the ship the children meet the crew: a novice seaman Ben Thomas (and there is certainly a hint of mutual attraction between him and Joanna), Billy Cobb, the black cabin boy (with whom the young Christina strikes up an immediate rapport), Emily Chen, an aristocratic Chinese girl, who is aloof and cold - and very mysterious... But she pales in comparison to the mysteries surrounding Parsons - an old sea dog with a criminal bent. Believing the Robinsons have treasure in their cabin, Parsons sends his half-wit brother Seth, to steal it as a raging storm brews. David surprises Seth and in the ensuing struggle, Seth is accidentally killed. ...