Young David Feernley is determined to escape the drudgery of his life as a Yorkshire farmhand. Setting off for the coast, his aim is to join the whaling fleet at Whitby, to earn his living on the stormy and icy Arctic seas. Although he has few sailing skills, a Captain soon recognises his worth - for David is strong and unafraid of danger.
David is followed to the small fishing town by Ruth, his childhood sweetheart, her heart set on marriage. Passionate and proud, she is sure to be a worthy wife. Yet David is drawn to another's betrothed: the pretty, gentle Jenny. And it is Jenny's bright red shawl that David searches for on the cliff-tops on his return from the long months at sea...