Zooplankton was sampled with RMT (1+8) gear on a synoptic grid of stations centred on South Georgia during the austral summer (November/December 1981) and winter (July/August 1983). This initial paper compares zooplankton biomass, vertical distribution and species composition from RMT 1 catches in the oceanic portion of the grid (water depth greater than 2000 m) during the two surveys. In the winter survey, mean zooplankton biomass within the top 1000 m of the water column was 68% of its summer level. This drop was largely due to a decrease in abundance of krill (Euphausia superba), although biomass of copepods and remaining zooplankton also decreased. Copepods averaged 48% of total biomass in summer and winter, but outnumbered all other taxa put together by a factor of 10. Antarctic epipelagic species predominated around the island in the summer survey but tended to be replaced by sub-Antarctic or cosmopolitan species during the winter survey. The majority of zooplankton also showed a downwards seasonal migration out of the top 250 m layer in winter. However, several epipelagic species, including E. superba, did not migrate, and these tended to have the largest summer-winter differences in overall abundance. These trends were attributed to variation in the position of the Polar Front, which lay north of the island during the summer survey but lay across the survey area in winter, resulting in a greater influence of sub-Antarctic water and the displacement of Antarctic species.