This is one of four paintings Turner exhibited in 1845 and 1846 exploring the activities of whaling fleets. He seems to have hoped that his patron Elhanan Bicknell, who was himself involved in this business, would buy the series, but he ultimately only acquired one of the canvases. The whale here is in the process of being caught. Another picture in this series shows the whale being cut up for its blubber. Turner seems to have borrowed the name of this whaling ship from HMS Erebus, which with her companion vessel, the Terror, had discovered Anarctica during explorations of the South Seas in 1839-43.