During the past 100 years many papers have been published on Antarctic microbiology in general and that of the soil, snow and ice in particular. However, there are still contradictory statements in the recent literature concerning the scarcity or abundance of micro-organisms in Antarctic soil, the similarities and differences in the composition of the soil microflora and microfauna of Antarctic and temperate soils, and the extent to which the Antarctic micro-organisms are adapted to grow at low temperatures. Many of the microbiological studies of the Antarctic lack detailed information concerning the habitat and detailed comparisons with temperate soils. As a result of opportunities provided by the British Antarctic Survey, microbiological investigations have been made on Signy Island in the South Orkneys and on soil samples and cultures transported to England. The results of these studies are compared here with similar studies made on soils of the Moor House National Nature Reserve in northern England. The paper also draws on the considerable information available concerning the climate, vegetation and soils of the two areas. Three groups of heterotrophic micro-organisms, bacteria, fungi and testate amoebae, have been studied to obtain information on their species composition, distribution and abundance in the soils. An examination of the temperature tolerance of some of the isolates was also made. Full results of these studies have been published or are in preparation (Heal 1965; Bailey in prep.; Latter & Heal in prep.; Latter & Cragg 1967; Latter, Cragg & Heal 1967).