The group includes three main islands: Young, Buckle and Sturge, which lie in a line from northwest to southeast, and several smaller islets and rocks:
The islands are part of the Ross Dependency, claimed by New Zealand.
The Antarctic Circle is close to Borradaile Island, in the eight kilometre channel between Young and Buckle Islands. Buckle Island and the nearby Sabrina Islet are home to several colonies of Adelie and chinstrap penguins.
The English whaling captains John Balleny and Thomas Freeman first sighted the group during 1839: Freeman was the first person to land on any of the islands on 9 February 1839, and it was the first landing south of the Antarctic Circle. The islands' area totals 400 km2 (154 sq mi) and the highest point has been measured as 1,705 m (5,594 ft) or approximately 1500m (5000 feet) (the unclimbed Brown Peak on Sturge Island).
In the archipelago, the Buckle, Sturge and Young Islands are examples of stratovolcanoes. Strong earthquakes very close to the islands are rare, but tremors of moderate strength do occur over the Pacific–Antarctic Ridge, Macquarie Triple Junction and Pacific Rim between the Balleny Islands and Macquarie Island. Other earthquakes occur near the Southeast Indian Ridge and Balleny Fracture Zone, including a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1998 that struck just over 700 km (430 mi) west-northwest of the Islands.