About thirty warships left for the Mediterranean in early 1694. They were protecting a merchant fleet from French attacks. In the Strait of Gibraltar, they encountered a severe storm. Several ships sank or were severely damaged, including the Hollandia, shown to the right of center in the painting.
Dark storm clouds gather over the sea. Five ships are overtaken below the coast by this heavy storm. Of the second ship from the left, only the jib mast is still standing; wreckage floats in the waves.
Ludolf Bakhuysen has beautifully captured the threat of the storm. The last sunlight falling on the waves between the dark gray clouds makes the violence of nature palpable. This is probably not a historical event. Depictions like this refer to the unpredictability of the elements and the futility of man, and were very popular in the 17th century. By all accounts, Bakhuysen sought out the water in bad weather in order to properly study the effects of weather on air and water.