Plants

What It’s Like Inside The Doomsday Vault That Stores Every Known Crop On The Planet

We’ve long imagined scenarios in which,because of disaster, climate change, or nuclear war, life as we know it comes to an end, with parts of the earth rendered inhospitable withwidespread environmental devastation.

Hidden approximately400 feet deepinside a mountain on a remote islandbetween mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to come to our rescue if that happens.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

AP Photo/John McConnico

It stores valuable seeds from crops all over the world, and recently, because of the Syrian civil war, it came to humanity’s aid for the first time.The vault is not open to the public, but you can see what it’s like below:

Svalbard is the northernmost place in the world that still has scheduled flights, according to The Crop Trust, the group in charge of the global seed-bank system.

Svalbard is the northernmost place in the world that still has scheduled flights, according to The Crop Trust, the group in charge of the global seed-bank system.

Google Earth/Tech Insider

Source: The Crop Trust

It’s more than 400 feet above sea level, and there’s little moisture in the air.

It's more than 400 feet above sea level, and there's little moisture in the air.

Avatar_023/Shutterstock

Source: The Crop Trust

Since the vault is buried in permafrost, it could stay frozen at least 200 years, even if the power were to go out.

Since the vault is buried in permafrost, it could stay frozen at least 200 years, even if the power were to go out.

AP Photo/David Keyton

Source: Reuters

The vault has seeds from more than 60 institutions and almost every country in the world, collected from the more than 1,500 global gene banks that store samples of seeds from all the crops native to the region they’re in.

Source: The Crop Trust

Backups are sent to Svalbard in case a disaster ruins the samples at the home seed bank.

Backups are sent to Svalbard in case a disaster ruins the samples at the home seed bank.

Technicians at CIMMYT sort samples of wild maize seeds, known as Teocintle, at the center in Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Source: The Crop Trust

That way, the genetic diversity of crops around the world is kept safe.

That way, the genetic diversity of crops around the world is kept safe.

Robert Zeigler, director general of the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), shows rice seeds destined for Svalbard.REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Seed samples are sent to Svalbard in large boxes, which are scanned with X-rays after they get to the island to make sure that they have nothing but seeds inside.
Seed samples are sent to Svalbard in large boxes, which are scanned with X-rays after they get to the island to make sure that they have nothing but seeds inside.

REUTERS/Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix

Source: The Crop Trust

The rooftop and part of the facade of the building is a work of art with a light installation by Dyveke Sanne, since all public buildings in Norway are legally required to have art.

The vault is unlocked only for deposits, which happen three or four times a year.

REUTERS/Hakon Mosvold Larsen/ScanpixNorway/Pool

Source: The Crop Trust

There are five doors with coded locks that anyone looking to get into the vault has to pass through.

There are five doors with coded locks that anyone looking to get into the vault has to pass through.

AP Photo/John McConnico

Source: The Crop Trust

Plus, The Crop Trust says that polar bears which outnumber humans on the island provide an extra “layer of security.”

Plus, The Crop Trust says that polar bears  which outnumber humans on the island  provide an extra "layer of security."

The warning sign says “Applies to all of Svalbard territory.”REUTERS/Bob Strong

Source: The Crop Trust

The temperature inside is kept to -18 degrees Celsius, cold enough to keep the sealed seeds viable for in some cases thousands of years.

Inside, seeds are moved to a trolley and rolled into the vault's main chamber.

AP Photo/John McConnico

Source: The Crop Trust

So far, there are more than 860,000 samples in the vault, collected since Svalbard opened in 2008. Each sample contains 500 seeds.

So far, there are more than 860,000 samples in the vault, collected since Svalbard opened in 2008. Each sample contains 500 seeds.

AP Photo/David Keyton

Source: The Crop Trust

But there’s enough space in the vault’s three main rooms to store 4.5 million samples, which would be more than 2 billion seeds.

But there's enough space in the vault's three main rooms to store 4.5 million samples, which would be more than 2 billion seeds.

AP Photo/John McConnico

Source: The Crop Trust

The seeds arrive sealed in foil and are kept inside sealed boxes to prevent any spoilage.

The seeds arrive sealed in foil and are kept inside sealed boxes to prevent any spoilage.

A seed sample is filled at a center in Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Source: The Crop Trust

In 2015, the ICARDA Seed Bank, which had been in Syria, withdrew samples from the vault a first so it could move and restore its seed bank, which had been damaged by war.

In 2015, the ICARDA Seed Bank, which had been in Syria, withdrew samples from the vault  a first  so it could move and restore its seed bank, which had been damaged by war.

AP Photo/David Keyton

Source: Tech Insider

That showed that the vault could serve its function, but hopefully there will be no need for another withdrawal in the near future. “It illustrates why we built it,” Cary Fowler tells my colleague Lydia Ramsey. “Loss of that collection would be irreplaceable. … I tell people it’s a great story a sad story of the seed vault functioning as an insurance policy.”

That showed that the vault could serve its function, but hopefully there will be no need for another withdrawal in the near future. "It illustrates why we built it," Cary Fowler tells my colleague Lydia Ramsey. "Loss of that collection would be irreplaceable. ... I tell people it's a great story  a sad story  of the seed vault functioning as an insurance policy."

AP Photo/John McConnico

Source: Business Insider

Read the original article on Tech Insider. Copyright 2016.

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