Particulate organic matter was collected in the coastal waters of Terra Nova Bay during the Oceanographic Campaign of the Italian Antarctic Research Programme in summer (January–February) 1990. Particulate matter composition was analysed for organic carbon and nitrogen, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and ATP. A vertical stratification was evident in the study area, and resulted from prior melting of the pack ice. Suspended organic matter in the mixed layer and below the mixed layer differed in quantitative and qualitative composition. Except for ATP, all the biochemical components showed higher concentrations in the mixed layer than in the deeper waters. The particulate organic matter in Terra Nova Bay was mostly detrital and of algal origin.