Seven independent clone libraries were constructed to study the biodiversity of the bacterioplankton in the surface waters around Southern Thule, South Sandwich Islands, in order to identify the species present, to determine the sample effort required to estimate the total diversity, and to determine whether the surface waters around Southern Thule represented a highly specialized local anomaly or a subset of the marine meta-community. In total, 672 clones generated 629 useable sequences. These 629 clones matched 278 different sequences deposited in the 16S rDNA sequence databases. The majority of the clones were related to marine microorganisms, many of which had been previously detected in permanently cold Arctic and Antarctic marine environments. Each clone library generated an average of 35.8 new sequence matches. 346 clones covered two-thirds of the total estimated diversity, while 438 clones covered three-quarters of the total estimated diversity. Above this number, the coverage tended to stabilize and a relatively large number of additional clones were required to improve coverage significantly, increasing at the rate of about one new sequence match per 100 new clones. Comparing the different clone libraries, eight matches occurred in each of the seven libraries, whilst fifty-five occurred in only one, suggesting that there might be a relatively small number of common dominant ubiquitous species, with a much larger underlying diversity or ‘seed bank’ from which this dominant diversity is drawn. This study suggests that the dominant bacterioplankton in the surface waters around Southern Thule represent a subset of the marine meta-community, whilst sub-dominant diversity appears to be a highly specialized local anomaly.