This paper explains the background and scientific rationale behind New Zealand’s decision to send two separate research voyages to the Balleny Islands, located north of the Ross Sea, in the Antarctic summer of early 2006. The first of these voyages involved a dedicated research expedition to the Balleny Islands exclusively, utilizing R/V Tiama, a 15 m expedition yacht. The second voyage included supplemental sampling in the Balleny Islands area as part of a larger Ross Sea expedition utilizing R/V Tangaroa. The successful completion of these voyages represents a considerable step forward for New Zealand’s approach to the Balleny Islands. This paper provides a preliminary summary of the scientific sampling activities carried out by each expedition, and discusses how the resulting data will likely inform the design of subsequent research activities in the area.