A team of Japanese researchers drilling on Antarctica has recovered what is believed to be the oldest sample of ice ever — possibly dating back 1 million years, officials said Tuesday.

The ice sample was taken from a depth of 9,994 feet into the Antarctic ice sheet near the Japanese camp at Fuji Dome, according to Yuji Umezaki, an official with the education and science ministry.

He said although exact dating will be conducted after the sample is returned to Japan this spring, the depth and other factors suggest it is roughly 1 million years old.

The oldest sample yet recovered from Antarctica was 800,000 years old. That sample was collected by a team of scientists from the European Union.

Umezaki said the ice sample may provide important insights into climate change because it contains ancient air that was trapped in bubbles as the snows piled up deeper and deeper above.

By studying the mix of gasses inside the air, scientists can follow changes in the composition of the earth's atmosphere.

Umezaki said the ice will be brought to Japan aboard the Shirase research vessel in April this year.

The Japanese have been drilling near Fuji Dome since 2003.