Giant Vault That Stores Different Types Of Seeds From Crops In Case Something Bad Happens (20 Pics)
1Svalbard 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.
2It's more than 400 feet above sea level, and there's little moisture in the air.
3Since the vault is buried in permafrost, it could stay frozen at least 200 years, even if the power were to go out.
4The 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.
5The Svalbard vault is the central fail-safe for all those seed banks.
6Backups are sent to Svalbard in case a disaster ruins the samples at the home seed bank.
7That way, the genetic diversity of crops around the world is kept safe.
8Seed 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.
9The rooftop and part of the facade of the building is a work of art, since all public buildings in Norway are legally required to have art.
10The vault is unlocked only for deposits, which happen three or four times a year.
11There are five doors with coded locks that anyone looking to get into the vault has to pass through.
12Plus, 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."
13The temperature inside is kept to minus 18 degrees Celsius, cold enough to keep the sealed seeds viable for — in some cases — thousands of years.
14Inside, seeds are moved to a trolley and rolled into the vault's main chamber.
15So far, there are more than 860,000 samples in the vault, collected since Svalbard opened in 2008. Each sample contains 500 seeds.
16But 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.
17The 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.
18In 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.
19That showed that the vault could serve its function, but hopefully there will be no need for another withdrawal in the near future.