An expedition to the outermost edges of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has yielded the motherlode – pieces of an absolutely ancient ancestor to the vast, amazing ecosystem.

The pieces of the reef which were brought back are believed to have been living some 20,000 years ago, at the peak of the last glacial period, a a time when the Earth was about 9 degrees Fahrengeit cooler than it is today, and the great cities of the United States were buried under 2 mile sheets of ice.

By studying these ancient samples of coral, researchers believe they might just be able to accurately view how the levels of the sea have changed over the past few millennium, this is crucial to predicting how sea levels might change in the coming years.

Actually getting to the ancient samples proved to be a a bit difficult as it lies both on and below the floor of the ocean.

Researchers spent two months aboard the research vessel the Greatship Maya, using a humongous drilling apparatus, and using specially designed earplugs, to bore 34 holes deep into the ancient parts of the reef, at three prime locations. They pulled up 730 feet of coral samples. It is these samples, which will prove most fruitful in ongoing studies.

All in all it was a success, and now mankind is one step closer to unraveling the mysteries of our planet, and the conundrums of the deep blue sea.