WATCH: This doomsday vault can withstand the apocalypse — and feed survivors. Look inside

WATCH: This doomsday vault can withstand the apocalypse — and feed survivors. Look inside

As pop culture remains obsessed with a post-apocalyptic world, some researchers from around the globe are already planning for humanity’s future in case the unthinkable happens.

Survivors of the worst-case scenario would need to eat, and in order to do that, they would need to grow food.

A Norwegian doomsday vault would allow them to do just that.

In a newly released virtual tour, people from around the world can now take a look inside the enormous seed depository built into a Norwegian mountain.

The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, NordGen and Crop Trust all work together to ensure a well-fed future for humankind by maintaining the vault that keeps plant seeds frozen in long-term storage.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was first considered in 2004 when a group of crop scientists conducted a study to see if it would be possible to build a vault that could withstand extreme conditions and act as long-term seed storage, according to Crop Trust.

They built the Bond-like structure in Svalbard, Norway, for multiple reasons, including because it was the furthest north someone could reach on a regularly scheduled flight, it could be built into the mountain, the area is geologically stable — reducing the chance of an earthquake damaging the structure — and the humidity is low, which is better for storing seeds.

The location is also high above sea level, keeping it safe from even the worst-case sea level rise scenarios, and has existing permafrost that can keep the seeds frozen even if the building fails, Crop Trust says.

“It is away from the places on earth where you have war and terror, and everything maybe you are afraid of in other places. It is situated in a safe place,” property manager Bente Naeverdal told Time Magazine.

The vault holds more than one million seed samples, all recorded and monitored by NordGen, including more than 6,000 species of plants.

“Inside this building is 13,000 years of agricultural history,” Brian Lainoff with Crop Trust told Time Magazine.

Its goal? To feed the world in the event of total apocalypse – or at least a disaster.

The seed vault has already proved useful. In 2015, in the middle of the Syrian civil war, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas wasn’t able to keep its Syrian gene bank operational. It meant that seeds were withdrawn from Svalbard for the first time to regenerate seed storages in Lebanon and Morocco, Crop Trust said.

But the vault is far from full.

Built to hold 4.5 million seed varieties, it continues to accept new specimens from around the world from local seed depositors.

For example, in 2020, the Cherokee Nation provided nine heirloom food crops that were used by indigenous people in North America before European colonization, Crop Trust said.

The vault celebrated its 15th anniversary in February 2023, and celebrated by receiving 20,000 seed samples from 20 different gene bank depositors, including from some locations for the first time. Albania, Croatia, North Macedonia and Benin now have seeds represented in the vault.

They also released a virtual tour.

The tour guides users through the vault starting on the snowy slope outside the entrance. Along the way, users can see pictures, descriptions and videos about the vault and the project. As users work their way deeper and deeper into the mountain, the virtual tour shows the equipment one would have to wear inside the vault just to stay warm.

Then, you enter the seed rooms.

Inside are rows of shelves with labeled boxes. Users can walk along the aisles and learn about seed depositors from around the world from pop-up screens.

“Not too many think about crop diversity as being so fundamentally important, but it is. It is almost as important as water and air,” Marie Haga of Crop Trust told Time Magazine. “Seeds generally are the basis of everything. Not only what we eat, but what we wear, nature all about us.”


© 2023 The Charlotte Observer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC


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