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In 1845, British engineer John Adolphus Etzler invented machines to transform the division of labour and sent Londoners to form a utopian community in Trinidad. One recruit is a young boy, Willy, who helps build the society's future home in a remote swamp. Far from realising Etzler's dream of paradise, most are stricken with the 'Black Vomit'. Willy and his father make a final attempt to fix a wrecked boat, but Willy's father falls ill and dies. Willy must decide whether return home with Marguerite, who he loves, or become the head of his family in their new home.