The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

I read about the Global Seed Vault last year in Wired, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw a real photo of the place and how amazing it is! To make a long story short, the Seed Vault is a giant store house with over 10,000 seeds and plant material. The reason for this bio-bank is to “provide a safety net against accidental loss o diversity in traditional genebanks”. Basically it’s a giant vault of plant life, so that plants that could be important to us in the future don’t die out or go extinct.

The Seed Vault is located on a Norewgian island called Spitsbergen, which is only 700 miles from the North Pole. The reason they built the vault in such a barren frosty location is three-fold. The first reason is that it has a relatively low amount of tectonic activity, so no earthquakes, which a lot of other genebanks could possibly be damaged by. The second is that the average temperature of the sandstone mountain that the vault was built in is 30º F. The seeds are cooled down to a temperature of -0 to -20º F, so even if the power went out, the seeds would be okay for at least weeks. The final reason is that the location is 430 feet above sea level, so even if global warming occurs, and the oceans begin to rise, the seeds will be safe.

But no matter how important and immense this project is, how effing cool is the building itself?! Could you imagine randomly coming across it in the middle of this island and thinking, “There are modern design loving aliens hanging out around here?!” I think it’s totally beautiful, and I love how narrow and simple it looks. I’m sure it’s a much prettier site than just some random concrete bunker.

Check out some cross-sections of the building under the cut.

Bobby

12 Comments The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

  1. palazzo March 3, 2008 at 4:29 PM

    It makes me think of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, but I’m not sure why.

  2. Anthony Baker March 3, 2008 at 5:06 PM

    It is definitely a very cool structure (no pun intended) and certainly for a worthwhile effort. Am surprised, however, that if power goes out, the sucker can only keep things going for a few weeks. They should have spoken to the heads behind the Long Now Foundation in SF about their Millennium Clock. One would think this type of facility should be designed to continue on in the event of a major catastrophe — something wherein boatloads of humans kick the bucket — and where you may have no electricity ever again from any human-powered means.

  3. Bobby S.Bobby S. March 3, 2008 at 5:26 PM

    Wikipedia says:

    “Prior to construction, a feasibility study determined that the vault could preserve seeds from most major food crops for hundreds of years. Some seeds, including those of important grains, could survive far longer, possibly thousands of years.”

    So there you go.

  4. Angele March 4, 2008 at 2:26 AM

    Well if I see this kind of structure in the middle of an icy abandoned space, I will think I am in a kind of Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass re-created world.

  5. Anthony Baker March 4, 2008 at 11:51 AM

    Sweet.

    Well, should the world end, Im headed north.

    Um, unless the whole Day After Tomorrow thing happens and the north freezes ass-cold. Then it’s south.

  6. Albert Loya March 6, 2008 at 3:24 PM

    If only architects in LA can be inspired by this building. We would have cooler looking buildings being built in the city.

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  8. suztor October 31, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    I wonder if instructions are enclosed about how each seed specimen. like climate and soil type and ideal germination specifications, things like that. If they are I hope it isn’t all computerized. carve it in stone or metal or something more durable than electronics.

    Say the bunker saves the seeds for thousands of years and then no one remembers how to grow corn seeds? Plan goes to waste…

  9. alex October 31, 2008 at 7:29 PM

    i love how epic they made it look .
    just so in the right situation will smith could run up to the front of it and be like “noooooooooooooooooo”

  10. Kassahun Mammo April 23, 2009 at 6:24 AM

    Anyone who lives on this planet even in our universe has to be grateful for this Svalbard Global Seed Vault work of the millennium; it is a proposal never had come on open forum. Svalbard Global Seed Vault is equally important as to that of the research of LHC, in CERN (photon – atom research) in Switzerland. Moreover, I personally have a high regard for the scientists who forwarded this superior and ground-breaking, rather (Arctic pole breaking,) idea for the global diversity security.

    Although, food is the measure staff as energy source nevertheless, Svalbard mission is an intention not only to secure food but also existence after xyzzzzzz boom booom booooo!!!!; So, I will have a value beyond measure for this effort which could take care for homosapine and other organisms or life on earth to set aside from unexpected catastrophic events by one or another way.
    Whatever happened here on our planet we will have something possible to keep on life on this galaxy, HOPFULLY!!!!!.

    So, any government and scientists, in any area of specialization have to cooperate and contribute to further this noble gracious work on earth at Svalbard, Global Seed Vault.

    It is a responsibility of the citizens of the Earth; we have not make an ethical, regional or national and continental boundary for this mission or assignment. It must be the task of ALL MANKIND; the HAVE and the NOT HAVE. Being a HUMAN is ENOUGH!!!!!!.

    Finally the Government of Norway and the CGIAR, and all its centers and FAO as well as all collaborative states and institutes are strongly appreciated for their willful support.

    Kassahun Mammo
    Ethiopia
    kassmatt2002@yahoo.com

  11. Mark June 10, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    Maybe they should put some Republicans in there before they go extinct as well.

  12. Kassahun Mammo December 16, 2010 at 1:14 AM

    Dear all
    Anyone who lives on this planet even in our universe has to be grateful for this Svalbard Global Seed Vault work of the millennium; it is a proposal never had come on open forum. Svalbard Global Seed Vault is equally important as to that of the research of LHC, in CERN (photon – atom research) in Switzerland. Moreover, I personally have a high regard for the scientists who forwarded this superior and ground-breaking, rather (Arctic pole breaking,) idea for the global diversity security.

    Although, food is the measure staff as energy source nevertheless, Svalbard mission is an intention not only to secure food but also existence after xyzzzzzz boom booom booooo!!!!; So, I will have a value beyond measure for this effort which could take care for homosapine and other organisms or life on earth to set aside from unexpected catastrophic events by one or another way.
    Whatever happened here on our planet we will have something possible to keep on life on this galaxy, HOPFULLY!!!!!.

    So, any government and scientists, in any area of specialization have to cooperate and contribute to further this noble gracious work on earth at Svalbard, Global Seed Vault.

    It is a responsibility of the citizens of the Earth; we have not make an ethical, regional or national and continental boundary for this mission or assignment. It must be the task of ALL MANKIND; the HAVE and the NOT HAVE. Being a HUMAN is ENOUGH!!!!!!.

    Finally the Government of Norway and the CGIAR, and all its centers and FAO as well as all collaborative states and institutes are strongly appreciated for their willful support.

    Kassahun Mammo
    Ethiopia

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