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Exploring the inside of Svalbard Global Seed Vault & facts about humanity’s preparation for doomsday, which could potentially save mankind. Here’s everything you need to know about the doomsday vault.
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Number 10 What Is It?
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, commonly known as the “Doomsday Vault”, is a facility that houses a vast number of plant seeds. The vault is a type of backup for humanity, which enables it to still have access to crucial resources even in its darkest hour. It was built in a remote part of Norway.
Number 9 Why Was It Built?
In 1996, after many negotiations, 150 countries adopted the first Global Plan of Action for conserving and using crop diversity. The Svalbard vault was born out of that initiative. American agriculturalist Cary Fowler, the man who frequently supervised the negotiations, was instrumental in its creation. The idea of a genebank to hold a collection of food crops didn’t originate with the Svalbard seed vault. There are over 1,750 such facilities all-over the world but the Norway vault is both the largest and the safest.
Number 8 When Was It Built?
During a ceremony in June, 2006, the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark laid the first stone. The building cost was entirely supported by the Norwegian government and amounted to roughly $9 million. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was officially opened in February 2008 and received its first seeds in January of that same year.
Number 7 Where Is It Located?
The vault is located inside a mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, which is part of the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The sandstone mountain that houses the seed vault is known as “Platåberget” which translates as “Plateau Mountain”. It’s the farthest north anyone can fly on a scheduled flight, meaning that it’s still accessible despite its remoteness. The location is roughly 800 miles from the North Pole.
Number 6 Ownership and Access
The seed vault operates under a “black box” arrangement, like a safe deposit box in a bank. Norway owns the bank but claims no ownership over the contents of the seed deposit. The samples can only be accessed by the depositor under the terms of a treaty approved by 118 countries. NordGen maintains the database of samples and depositors. The Crop Trust handles most of the yearly operating costs while also assisting genebanks from other countries in packaging and sending seeds to the vault. The facility accepts funding from private foundations and various governments worldwide.
Number 5 Has It Been Used?
As of the making of this video, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has only been used once. In 2015, ICARDA was the first depositor to make a withdrawal from the bank. Many of the seeds have reportedly been re-deposited since.
Number 4 Storage
The samples are kept at a temperature of -0.4 Fahrenheit in three-ply foil packages that are heat-sealed to prevent moisture. Even though the facility is surrounded by permafrost, refrigeration units further cool the storage rooms so they reach the international temperature standard. Each sample is made up of about 500 seeds which are sealed in an airtight aluminum bag. They’re then deposited in plastic containers on metal shelving racks. Because the seeds are kept at low temperatures and have limited oxygen exposure, their aging process is slowed down. Priority is given to crops that play a key role in sustainable agriculture and food production.
Number 3 Design
The vault has three rooms and a total floor space of roughly 11,000 square feet. Even with half of its first room filled, it still holds the largest seed collection in the world. The vault can store up to 4.5 million samples, each containing 500 seeds. As of the making of this video the vault holds nearly 1 million samples. The roof and vault entrance are filled with mirrors, prisms and highly reflective stainless steel. The materials are part of an illuminated artwork called “Perpetual Repercussion”, by artist Dyveke Sanne, meant to emphasize the importance of Arctic light. Because of the reflective materials, the vault’s entrance can be seen from afar.
There are cameras and sensors throughout the facility.
Number 1 Durability
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has certain features that enable it to preserve major food crops for up to hundreds of years. Some samples, including the most important grains, could potentially remain viable for millennia. From its entrance, the vault extends more than 400 feet into the mountain.