The raft rescue in sight signed and dated 'Smartly/1847' (lower right) oil on canvas 55.5 x 81.3cm (21 7/8 x 32in).
Despite an exhaustive search through marine records, no shipwreck involving a raft loaded with this many survivors has been identified in 1847 or indeed in the immediate preceding years. In point of fact, rafts supporting shipwrecked mariners were a surprisingly rare feature of life at sea during the era of wooden ships as there was never usually enough time to construct such a craft, and survivors were obliged either to 'take to the boats' or cling onto assorted pieces of wreckage if no boats were available.
However, it is possible that this artist may have been inspired by the loss of the Peruvian the previous year. The Peruvian, a 304-ton barque, struck a reef in the Coral Sea on 8th March 1846 and twenty-one survivors made for the Australian coast on a raft. When the raft finally drifted ashore forty-two days later, there were only seven persons left alive, six of whom died shortly afterwards.