A critical requirement for climate and global change research is the availability of global oceanographic data covering long time periods. Substantial resources are presently being allocated for various global ocean programs and for the establishment of a true global ocean-observing system. However, researchers dealing with long-term changes in the ocean will have to wait many years (even decades) for long enough data sets to accumulate from these projects. Our only recourse, therefore, is to take full advantage of data that have been collected over the past decades. Unfortunately, it has been estimated that perhaps half of all historical global ocean data do not presently reside in any of the maintained data archives around the world and thus are not available to climate and global-change researchers. Many of these data may be at risk of being lost forever. It is time to put forth an ambitious integrated effort to recover these data before it is too late.