Abstract Vertical distributions of particulate silica, and of production and dissolution rates of biogenic silica, were determined on two N-S transects across the Pacific sector of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current during the austral spring of 1978. Particulate silica profiles showed elevated levels in surface water and near the bottom, with low (35–110 nmol Si · 1 −1) and vertically uniform values through the intervening water column. Both the particulate silica content of the upper 200 m and the production rate of biogenic silica in the photic zone increased from north to south, reaching their highest values near the edge of the receding pack ice. A significant, but variable, fraction (18–58%) of the biogenic silica produced in the surface layer was redissolving in the upper 90–98 m. Net production of biogenic silica in the surface layer (production minus dissolution) was proceeding at a mean rate of ca. 2 mmol Si · m −2 · day −1. This is ca. 4 times greater than the most recent estimate of the mean accumulation rate of siliceous sediments beneath the ACC. We estimate, based on mass balance, that the mean dissolution rate of biogenic silica in subsurface water column in the Southern Ocean is 1.2–2.9 mmol Si · m −2 · day −1.