The Late Miocene-Early Pliocene paleoclimatic history has been evaluated for a deep drilled sediment sequence at Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 281 and a shallow water marine sediment sequence at Blind River, New Zealand, both of which lay within the Subantarctic water mass during the Late Miocene. A major, faunally determined, cooling event within the latest Miocene at Site 281 and Blind River coincides with oxygen isotopic changes in benthonic foraminiferal composition at DSDP Site 284 considered by Shackleton and Kennett (1975) to indicate a significant increase in Antarctic ice sheet volume. However, at Site 281 benthonic foraminiferal oxygen isotopic changes do not record such a large increase in Antarctic ice volume. It is possible that the critical interval is within an unsampled section (no recovery) in the latest Miocene. Two benthonic oxygen isotopic events in the Late Miocene (0.5 ? and 1 ? in the light direction) may be useful as time-stratigraphic markers. A permanent, negative, carbon isotopic shift at both Site 281 and Blind River allows precise correlations to be made between the two sections and to other sites in the Pacific region. Close interval sampling below the carbon shift at Site 281 revealed dramatic fluctuations in surface-water temperatures prior to a latest Miocene interval of refrigeration (Kapitean) and a strong pulse of dissolution between 6.6 and 6.2 +/- 0.1 m.y. which may be related to a fundamental geochemical change in the oceans at the time of the carbon shift (6.3-6.2 m.y.). No similar close interval sampling at Blind River was possible because of a lack of outcrop over the critical interval. Paleoclimatic histories from the two sections are very similar. Surface water temperatures and Antarctic ice-cap volume appear to have been relatively stable during the late Middle-early Late Miocene (early-late Tongaporutuan). By 6.4 m.y. cooler conditions prevailed at Site 281. Between 6.3 and 6.2 -+ 0.1 m.y. the carbon isotopic shift occurred followed, within 100,000 yr, by a distinct shallowing of water depths at Blind River. The earliest Pliocene (Opoitian) is marked by increasing surface-water temperatures.