Should an apocalyptic event ever threaten to wipe out the human race, mankind has a secret emergency kit that few people know about. Located in the side of a frozen mountain off the coast of Norway, there is an underground bunker containing thousands of plant seeds. It’s been dubbed the Doomsday Seed Vault.
The vault stretches 120m into a mountain on the tiny island of Spitsbergen, and contains a vast collection of nearly every type of crop and useful plant seed. The collection of seeds — which are stored at a cooled temperature of -18C (0F) — will keep for up to 1,000 years, should something like drought, flooding, or any other kind of disaster threaten mankind’s food source.
Surprisingly, the seed vault wasn’t built until 2007, when global leaders decided that something needed to be done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. The emergency food shelter has some pretty important backers footing its cost, too. Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation, the Government of Norway, and other VIPs have sunk billions into the Doomsday Seed Vault in an effort to ensure its entrance remains impenetrable against threatening forces.
The vault has dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. There is no full-time staff at the vault and not one person has all of the codes required for entrance.
Scientists seem to agree that a system of seed bunkers like the Doomsday Seed Vault is crucial for responding to disasters that threaten to wipe out a plant species. Thousands of different plant seeds are contained in the vault, with everything from corn and coffee to exotic crops from Nigeria and Syria.
A problem with previous seed vaults is that many were in countries with an unstable political structure. For example, seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan were destroyed during conflict or raided by looters. The goal of the seed bank system is now to place the seed banks in areas that are as free from human error as possible.
“We are inside a mountain in the Arctic because we wanted a really, really safe place that operates by itself,” said Cary Fowler, president of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “The design of the vault will ensure that the seeds will stay well preserved even if forces such as global warming raise temperatures outside the facility,” project manager Magnus Tveiten further explained.
For the sake of mankind, let’s hope they’re right.