Sea state conditions can be estimated from the motion of a moving ship by converting its response to incident waves through the response amplitude operator. The method is applied herein to ship motion data from the icebreaker R/V Akademik Tryoshnikov and recorded during the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition across the Southern Ocean during the Austral summer 2016–17. The response amplitude operator of the vessel was estimated using two boundary element method models, namely NEMOH and HydroSTAR. An inter-comparison of model performance is discussed. The accuracy of the reconstructed sea states is assessed against concurrent measurements of the wave energy spectrum, which were acquired during the expedition with the marine radar WaMoS-II. Results show good agreement between reconstructed sea states (wave spectrum as well as integrated parameters) and direct observations. Model performances are consistent. Nevertheless, NEMOH produces slightly more accurate wave parameters when quantitatively compared against HydroSTAR.