Tech by VICE

The Doomsday Vault for the World's Seeds

Just in case.

by Rachel Pick
Jun 30 2015, 8:40pm

Somewhere in Svalbard, at 78°N in the Arctic Circle, an enormous mountain vault holds seeds from countries all over the world—even North Korea.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is designed primarily to be backup storage for individual countries' seed vaults. The earthquake-resistant vault keeps seeds frozen at -18°C, deep inside a mountain to protect from possible asteroid or nuclear damage. If a plant goes extinct, or a country's seed vault is destroyed by war, fire, or natural disaster, the crop can hopefully be re-cultivated through the Svalbard vault.

This clip from video producer Tom Scott has been making the rounds today, but it doesn't give you a glimpse of the vault from the inside. This ultra-short documentary film by David Osit actually takes you inside the vault, following the vault's developer Cary Fowler as he gives a tour of the facilities. Fowler, who works for the Global Crop Diversity Trust, calls the vault an "insurance policy." As crop species will soon be experiencing a climate unfamiliar to their biology, Fowler says humanity is responsible for engineering their survival in case of global disaster.

"I think doomsday happens every day. It happens in small bits and pieces. It happens quietly," Fowler says. "So here's a very quiet solution." We can hope we'll never need the Svalbard vault, but it's still reassuring to know it's there.