Philip J. Ouless born in Jersey on 7 April 1817. Ouless the son of an auctioneer and estate agent, was of French extraction. His father moved to Jersey at the time of the French Revolution, anglicizing the family name from Oules by adding an estra 's'. Ouless spent three years studying in Paris where he met his future wife Caroline Savage, the daughter of his landlady. They returned to Jersey to live at 81 Royal Square, St. Helier. He set up business painting portraits, landscapes and Maritime Pictures but received the majority of his income from commissions from local ship owners.
The Jersey owned barque Indian went aground and sank off the Cargados Reef in the Indian Ocean on 4 April 1850 whilst on route from London to Bombay. Wrecked by the sheer folly of the Captain he then compounded his negligence by abandoning ship and leaving most of his passengers and crew to fend for themselves. Ouless depicts the passengers clinging to the side of the hull as it heaves perilously in the surf. Eight people were eventually rescued by a passing ship and landed safely in Mauritus where the Captains conduct was exposed.