Turner made extensive studies of shipwrecks in two sketchbooks of about 1805, and produced his first painting of the subject the same year. The theme recurred frequently in his work, including Disaster at Sea (about 1833), on display in Room 9.
The present picture shows a burning boat partially hidden by waves, which are the main subject. Like many of his later sea pieces, the view is from the shore, where a group of onlookers has gathered.
This work may be a companion to Yacht Approaching the Coast displayed nearby; perhaps pairing light and dark.