AP Photo/John McConnico

Here's what it looks like inside the frozen Svalbard 'doomsday vault'

One day, this could be our salvation.

KEVIN LORIA, BUSINESS INSIDER
1 DEC 2016
 

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 with widespread environmental devastation.

Hidden approximately 400 feet (122 metres) deep inside a mountain on a remote island between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed to come to our rescue if that happens.

 

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

It's more than 400 feet (122 m) 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

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.

A technician at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), packs samples of wheat seeds:

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.AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

The Svalbard vault is the central fail-safe for all those seed banks.

The Svalbard vault is the central fail-safe for all those seed banks.Shutterstock/Incredible Arctic

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.AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Technicians at CIMMYT sort samples of wild maize seeds, known as Teocintle, at the centre in Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

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.Reuters/Darren Whiteside

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

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 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.AP Photo/John McConnico

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

The vault is unlocked only for deposits, which happen three or four times a year.Reuters/Hakon Mosvold Larsen/ScanpixNorway/Pool

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."Reuters/Bob Strong

The warning sign says "Applies to all of Svalbard territory."

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

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

An interior door from the main chamber into one of the three vault rooms.

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

AP Photo/John McConnicoAP Photo/John McConnico

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

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.AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

A seed sample is filled at a centre in Texcoco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

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."

SeedVaultRepostHeaderAP Photo/John McConnico

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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