Scientists find undisturbed pockets of seawater from the last Ice Age 20,000 years ago in the Maldives – and say they will provide clues about our planet‘s changing climate

A virtually undisturbed sample of 20,000-year-old seawater that represents the first direct remnant from Earth‘s last Ice Age has been found in the Indian Ocean.

Researchers found the ice while drilling sediment core samples out of the underwater limestone deposits in the Maldives archipelago in South Asia. 

Their work revealed distinct water properties only seen in glacial seawater from the last Ice Age, or the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). 

The team, from the University of Chicago, say that their work could lead a better understanding of out changing world and improved climate models. 

Scroll down for video 

During an expedition of the Indian Ocean on research vessel JOIDES Resolution, the researchers drilled deep below the Indian Ocean and extracted rock cores.

It was inside these cores that they found the traces of the ancient ocean, absorbed into porous rock formations and preserved there ever since. 

The small sample was squeezed out of an ancient rock formation from the Indian Ocean and sliced into pieces before being put into a hydraulic press which squeezes the moisture remnant out of its pores. 

The team tested the samples aboard their ship and found that the water was far saltier than that found in the Indian Ocean today.

Back in the lab, they did more specific testing to examine the elements and isotopes, or variants of a particular element.

The team found that all of their results seemed out of place in the modern ocean, according to the   

They said that the samples indicated that they came from a time when the ocean was significantly saltier, colder and more chlorinated. 

These are conditions that scientists think sea water would have been during the Last Glacial Maximum, when sea levels dropped to hundreds of feet below current levels.  

‘From all indications, it looks pretty clear we now have an actual piece of this 20,000-year-old ocean,‘ lead study author Clara Blättler, an assistant professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.

For decades, scientists have been studying the Earth‘s last ice age, also called the Last Glacial Maximum which is thought to have lasted 100,000 years, by looking coral fossils and seafloor sediments. 

Receive News & Ratings Via Email - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings with's FREE daily email newsletter.

If all of the results are valid, the new samples could provide scientists with clues on how the ocean reacted to the geophysical swings of the last ice age. 

The research could also further out understanding these shifts and lead to improved climate models.

Ms Blättler said, as ‘any model you build of the climate has to be able to accurately predict the past.‘ 

The study is to be published in the July 2019 issue of the journal . 


The last Glacial Maximum was around 22,000 years ago when much of Europe was covered in ice.

During the ice age, which ended about 11,500 years ago, ice covered about 30 per cent of the land in the world.

In Britain, glacial ice and waterflows spread as far south as the Bristol Channel.

Average temperatures were 5°C (8°F) colder than they are today, allowing a one-kilometre-thick sheet of ice to cover much of the country.

The temperature remained below 0°C all year round in northern regions, particularly Scotland, allowing the sheet to remain on the land all year.

Ice connected Britain with Scandinavia, allowing a host of large wildlife to roam free between the UK and mainland Europe.

During this period Britain would have seen the likes of woolly mammoths, giant deer and wolves roaming its icy planes.

Large glacial lakes covered Manchester, Doncaster, Newcastle and Peterborough and much of the country was uninhabitable for humans.

Corridors of fast flowing ice, known as ice streams, flowed toward the east over Edinburgh and toward the west of Glasgow.

All of Ireland was covered in ice, which was flowing through the Irish sea where it met Welsh ice and then flowed south toward the Isles of Scilly.

Much of Scotland, Wales, the midlands and northern England was covered in perpetual ice.

Cambridge, which was covered by a huge glacial lake, was the most southern region to be heavily affected by the icy climate.

Over time the ice and its hefty waterflows carved out the land of Britain, forming geological scars that can still be seen today.

These include glacial ridges sculpted by moving ice and winding flows of rock that travelled for miles across the country.