Your web browser (Internet Explorer) is out of date. Some things will not look right and things might not work properly. Please download an up-to-date and free browser from here.

Monster wave measured by Southern Ocean wave buoy one of largest recorded in Southern Hemisphere

Most read & most shared Story — Story By MetOcean scientists — This past Saturday, MetOcean Solutions’ wave buoy in the Southern Ocean recorded a whopping 19.4 metre wave. (The average single story house is 4.5 metres high! – WeatherWatch)

Senior Oceanographer Dr Tom Durrant is thrilled. “This is one of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere,” he explains.

Sign up to our YouTube Channel here and view our latest update (Monday May 22nd) on these exceptional swells in the Southern Ocean, just south east of New Zealand

“This is the world’s southern-most wave buoy moored in the open ocean, and we are excited to put it to the test in large seas.”

Persistent westerly winds and unlimited fetch combine to make Southern Ocean waves among the biggest in the world. Sub-Antarctic waters are difficult to work in, and reliable wave data for the area is scarce.

The buoy was deployed in a collaboration between the New Zealand Defence Force and MetOcean Solutions aiming to get valuable observations from this remote part of the ocean. Such observations will enable better forecasting and design of vessels built to withstand Southern Ocean conditions. Moored in a water depth of 150 m, the buoy is located within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, 11 km south of Campbell Island. 

“The buoy is performing extremely well so far,” adds Tom. “Not only is it surviving these large waves, but it is making detailed recordings of extreme sea states in the Southern Ocean, a region rarely observed by in-situ instruments. During the depths of winter, Southern Ocean waves are enormous, with significant wave heights averaging over 5 m, and regularly exceeding 10 m. Individual waves can double that size.

Accurate measurements of these conditions will help us understand waves and air-sea interactions in these extreme conditions. This, in turn, will lead to improvements in the models used to simulate the waves, providing better forecasts, both for the Southern Ocean and for the wider region. Waves generated in the Southern Ocean have far-reaching effects, contributing significantly to the wave climate in all the major ocean basins.”

The Southern Ocean Wave Buoy data are freely available from MetOcean Solutions. View the data here or contact us by emailing

— Blog by

– thanks the team at MetOcean for providing us with this amazing update! 


Dag Pike on 26/05/2017 1:41pm

I have a wave recording taken from on board the British Research Ship Discovery showing a 29.3 metre wave that was actually record in the Rockall Trench. This is very close to the 100 foot wave. In 65 years at sea I have encountered three rogue waves, One north of Iceland, one in a hurricane off the Bahamas and the third off a beach on the North Coast of Cornwall when in a 36 foot boat. You could see the sun shining through that last wave which meant it was not good news but we survived the encounter although it was like going up in an express elevator. I refer you to my book Storms and Wild Water for photos and descriptions. Talk is cheap when it comes to rogue/freak waves. Experience can be hard to find.

John Reid on 22/05/2017 11:33am

I installed the first Waverider wave buoys at Cape Sorell near Strahan on the West Coast of Tasmania in 1985. Eighteen days after the buoys were deployed a wave of 19.83 metres maximum upward wave height (Hmu) was recorded at 2020 AEST on July 29 1985. This was not a “freak wave”. It was part of a storm generated wind-sea. (Reid, J.S. and C.B.Fandry, 1994, Wave Climate Measurements in the Southern Ocean. CSIRO Marine Laboratories Report 223). Freak waves or “King” waves that “come out of nowhere” are sometimes observed off the south west coast of Western Australia near Albany. Although there is only anecdotal evidence of such waves I believe that they do occur and are due to the focusing of swells generated at the antipodes in the North Atlantic. This is one of the few locations in the world where great circle wave paths from the antipodes are uninterrupted by land.

Guest on 23/05/2017 12:02pm

for the reassurance

Robbie Buoy on 22/05/2017 5:22am

To say it is the largest wave ever recorded could infer that this darned climate change theory could be the doom of us all. But as the buoy hasn’t been there very long it’s only the biggest wave in the last (how long?)

WW Forecast Team on 22/05/2017 5:31am

Hi Robbie, the headline very clearly says its one of the largest, not THE largest. Waves this large are exceptional and it’s great to see investment into buoys in the Southern Ocean. This story isn’t comparing the wave to this buoy only, it’s comparing it to all buoys in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Scientists wrote those story. It’s a fairly new buoy and perhaps time will show these exceptional waves are more frequent than we think – but for now the story above stands factually accurate as written by MetOcean. It was a massive wave!



View more comments

Related Articles