So the first batch of the world’s crop seeds is now packed away deep in the cold Svalbard mountainside, and the vault’s doors, for the time being, are once again sealed. In total, more than 100 million seeds, representing some 250,000 individual strains of almost 100 major crops, from sorghum to sunflowers, have been loaded up in vault number 2 (I’m not sure why they started with vault no. 2 – although it may have been something to do with the fact that during the opening, vault no. 1 was playing host to 150 delegates and about a dozen live musical performers). Over 11 tonnes of seeds, in an impressive 656 boxes, were loaded up and locked away in little more than an hour. Read more
I was excited to get the chance to cover the seed vault’s opening ceremony – involving the placing of seed samples representing more than a quarter of a million crop strains onto the facility’s shelves. What I didn’t expect was that I would be expected to help. Read more
The Svalbard seed vault is built to survive a range of natural and man-made meltdowns. It’s high enough on the mountain’s face to rise above any projected sea-level rise, and given that it’s seed collections will be nestled more than 100 metres inside the rock, it can potentially withstand nuclear explosion or earthquake. Its tapered shape is designed to cut through avalanches or landslides, meaning that its entranceway can still be reached. Given that the Doomsday vault is intended to last for centuries, the facility was designed to endure a range of doomsday scenarios. Read more
Longyearbyen, on the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, is most northerly place you can get to on a commercial flight. If you’re brave (or foolish) enough to want to go trekking to the North Pole (about 1,000 kilometres away), you have to go through here. But I’m not doing that – I’ve come here to watch the first seeds being put into a mountain bunker, with the aim of providing a backup copy of almost every crop there is. Read more
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