Laboratory experiments are used to study the initial response of a stratified fluid to the action of a wind stress. The experiments are described in the context of a parameterization scheme that quantifies the strength of the applied stress relative to the bulk stability of the fluid and also the duration of the wind stress relative to the periods of the waves generated by the stress. This study concentrates on the first fundamental internal wave period in experiments where the fluid is considered to have upwelled, i.e. the stratified region of the fluid reaches the surface at the upwind endwall. The majority of the experiments use three-layer initial density profiles as an approximation to a continuously stratified water column.A linear model using normal modes proved successful prior to the commencement of upwelling and this enabled an estimate to be made of the time at which upwelling occurred. At this point the wave development ceased and the flows developed via entrainment mechanisms. Consideration of the energy budget showed that little of the input energy was stored in the system. The initial mixing efficiency, defined as the ratio of the mean potential energy gained to the energy imparted by the belt, never exceeded 30%. Peak efficiency occurred when the surface stress was just sufficient to bring the interfacial region to the surface.