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! 


Rogue waves

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.

CSIRO Wave Buoy at Cape Sorell Tasmania

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.


for the reassurance

Biggest in the world? I found this link of a wave in the atlantic last year that was the biggest ever recorded by a buoy. But this one was bigger??

Largest wave ever recorded

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?)

Hi Robbie, the headline very

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!



Big seas RNZN Otago, 20 metre seas in southern ocean!

You should try a trip on the

You should try a trip on the north atlantic, wintertime. 5 mtrs waveheigth there is considered as " Calm sea"

Haha! Yeah, no thanks on that

Haha! Yeah, no thanks on that trip :) Sounds truly awful!

- WW

Large wave

Will it hit a shoreline sometime soon?

These rogue waves are freaks

These rogue waves are freaks which arise as a consequence of waves coming together. When waves meet the height of the combined wave is not simple addition but squared. It's called constructive interferance and lasts for the time it takes for the waves to pass eachother. They won't come to shore. Focussed wave energy is another source of rogue waves which lasts longer.

Not sure sorry, I would

Not sure sorry, I would imagine it was a freak wave height sort've thing and the energy would've dispersed fairly quickly perhaps??


Breaking in shallow water?

I'm curious to know if this wave was observed hitting a shoreline? I imagine that it could be dangerous...

Significant Swell

The text says its height was recorded by an Electronic Buoy. It was likely a massive SWELL , not a breaking wave.It wasnt OBSERVED. (It may have even been recorded at night,).You say "COULD be dangerous"? 19,4 metres is just short of 65 feet. Oh yes--It could be dangerous!!!. Surfers (Garret Mc Namara --Hawaii) have surfed just short of 100 foot WAVES--(Breaking swell) in Nazarre, Portugal. Google it.

100 ft wave in nova scotia

100 foot wave recorded off Nova Scotia Canada by buoy during 10/1991 perfect storm which sank Andrea Gail.


You cannot tell me that there are no time frame monitors linked, for height value comparison analysis.

"waves" definitions

I see what you are trying to convey, but standard oceanographic terminology calls what the buoy is measuring a wave. While the distinction between breaking and non-breaking waves is very real, that doesn't mean that non-breaking waves are not waves. Swells are a gentle, rolling version of a wave. All swells are waves, all waves are not swells. BTW, FWIW waves break in the open ocean as well as along coastlines. Google it.

Ocean swell and waves

When a swell hits the beach it peaks up plus sucks the water from in front of it making it taller the it was in the ocean . So a 65foot wave would turn into well over 100foot wave in my eye . you Ding bat

Not sure sorry, I would

Not sure sorry, I would imagine it was a freak wave height sort've thing and the energy would've dispersed fairly quickly perhaps??