The vault will consist mainly of a chamber excavated 120 meters
inside a rock. The location has been carefully chosen in a mountain
130 metres above sea level, so the risk of global warming has been
also taken into account here.
project became possible after the International Treaty of Plant
Genetic Resources came into force. The construction of the vault is
funded by the Norwegian government, which is pretty much involved in
the project. The construction is carried on by The Global Crop
Diversity Trust, and
they plan to finish the work fast. The construction is due to be
completed by September, and the vault will be functional by winter.
how is this seed bank different from the other 1.400, which exist
around the planet? Well, for one thing, the massive collection of
samples that it will store: over 3 million. Svalbard will become with
much difference the largest collection in the world. The system will
operate like this: samples are sent in “black boxes” that are
stored in the vault. The boxes are not opened there and no other
breeder can use them, unless all other seed sources are destroyed. If
that happens, then the samples in Svalbard can be released.
Permafrost and thick rock will ensure that, even without electricity,
the samples will remain frozen.
Hope in the middle of nowhere
Although, collecting the samples will not be a problem for those
hypothetical survivors (in a hopefully faraway future apocalyptical
time), reaching the vault might be quite a difficult task. The
construction is located in quite a remote area: Svalbard is a group
of islands nearly a thousand kilometres north of mainland Norway. For
nearly four months a year the islands are enveloped in total
darkness. And if you wonder about security measures, nature and the
Norwegian authorities are making the “Doomsday vault” like a
fortress: access to Longyearbyen is effectively limited to one plane
flight a day and the occasional boat during summer. Freezing
temperatures, ice flow (and waters), polar bears, camera
surveillance, and the inherent security of a reinforced underground
location with locked vault-like doors combine to present a formidable
obstacle to any kind of attack or mischief. Unfortunately, the
designers cannot guarantee the vault withstanding the direct impact
of a nuclear bomb.