What is the Roaring Forties?


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The Roaring Forties refers to that part of the world roughly between forty and fifty degrees latitude. This region is renowned for wild westerly winds, hence the name.

The winds are particularly strong in the Southern Ocean (south of Tasmania), where there is little land to provide any obstacles.

Why we don't like it

These winds have been known to be the bane of sailors since the time of Captain Cook.  Conditions can become extremely treacherous for anyone who finds themselves under sail while these winds are in full force.  History has shown there can be devastating results - as seen in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race tragedy.

Why we like it

In 1610, Hendrik Brouwer, a Dutch sailor saw the benefits of merchant ships catching these winds as they travelled the east bound trading route. Ships made record runs, thanks to these powerful winds. Undoubtedly, the trading companies would have been happy about that!

Tasmania is located right in this zone of raging winds, experiencing the accompanying wet weather and cold temperatures. As a result, unique flora and fauna have developed on the island.

For example in southwestern Tasmania, you will find buttongrass moorland. It covers about one-seventh of the island.

Another Tasmanian example - the delightful green-patterned ground parrot. This is one of only three species of parrot worldwide which nest on the ground. A more secure home than up in the trees in those crazy winds perhaps?


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