Norway: ‘Doomsday’ Vault Where World’s Seeds Are Kept Safe

Deep within the heart of an ice mountain, between the North Pole and Norway, a resource of crucial importance to the future of humanity lies. Not coal, oil, or valuable minerals, but rather seeds.

Today the great diversity of plants that humanity has depended on throughout history is compromised by the clones of contemporary industrial agriculture, climate change, and new diseases. So, the storage vault—is in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, eight hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. It was built to ensure that nature’s wide assortment of DNA is not destroyed.

How Does It Work?

The vault is designed to conserve all seeds of the world’s food plants to safeguard against catastrophe. It contains the seeds of over 6,000 kinds of food crops and over one million seed samples. Hence, the vault functions similarly to a safe deposit box. And all stored seeds are copies of seed samples kept in regional, national, and worldwide seed banks. Also, the banks may be retrieved as necessary.

The entry leads to a tiny space that resembles a tunnel. So, it is filled with the loud whirling sounds of electricity and cooling equipment necessary to maintain a constant temperature within the vault. Through one entrance, a 430-foot-long concrete tunnel lighted by strip lights descends into the mountain. 

So, three vaults are heading off the room, but only one is used; its door is encased in a thick coating of ice, reflecting the frigid conditions. The seeds are housed in silver vacuumed test tubes and packets in big boxes that are carefully stacked to the ceiling. The boxes have little monetary worth, but they may hold the secrets to future global food security.

 As part of a worldwide cooperative effort, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is actively maintained, and fresh and replacement seeds are constantly deposited. As genetic insurance for such world’s food crops, copies from any agro-seed bank are permitted free access to the vault.