Svalbard’s Vault, Doomsday Insurance + Art

Located “way up North,” above the Artic Circle, is Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which officially opened 26 Feb 2008.  It was become the most diverse collection of food crop seeds anywhere on Earth.

Schematic of the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway

Also known as the “Doomsday Seed Vault,” it is a global insurance policy, ensuring against a variety of food crop threats including disease, pestulance, drought and other natural disasters, and global warming.  Established by Norway as a “service to the world,” it is the most comprehensive collection of seeds on Earth.

Situated on a remote island in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, the Global Seed Vault sits at the end of a 410-foot tunnel dug into the Artic permafrost.  Even if the locally produced electricity fails, conditions should maintain temperatures under zero degrees F, cold and dry enough for some seeds to remain viable for thousands of years.  The vault is located in an earthquake-free area.

While the vault itself is quite unique, so is the vault entry’s spectacular light show.  In Norway, government-funded building projects exceeding a certain cost are required to include some art work.  It this case, it is a lighting project above the entry and on its roof.  The Svalbard objet d’art highlights the importance of light, and the uniqueness of light, in the Artic.  Dyveke Sanne and KORO, the Norwegian agency overseeing art in public spaces, worked together to fill the roof and vault entrance with highly reflective steel, mirrors, and prisms.  These elements act as a beacon, reflecting polar light in the summer months, while in the winter, a network of 200 fibre-optic cables gives the piece a muted greenish-turquoise and white light.  You have got to love the Norwegians.

Entrance to the Global Seed Vault, with Light Show on Roof

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2 Responses to Svalbard’s Vault, Doomsday Insurance + Art

  1. roger hansen says:

    The following letter to the editor was in NG (Nov 2011)

    “When poor people around the world continue to have 10 to 15 kids when they can’t afford one, there will never be a solution to the problem of feeding this planet. Do you think a farmer in Latin America or Africa trying to feed his dozen kids is going to care if climate change kills off the last polar bear? The planet will probably be around for awhile. I doubt that people will. But hey, keep storing those special seeds. They will solve everything.” Tom R. Kovach, Nevis, Minnesota

  2. roger hansen says:

    The following letter to the editor was in NG (Nov 2011)

    “Saving seeds is a good way to preserve local varieties of crops while scientists and farmers work to reintroduce them in their natural habitats. But there is no way to store livestock in the same fashion. Livestock’s genetic diversity is declining more slowly than crops’, but it is still in decline. This should be cause for as much concern as with crops.” Patrick Tessmer, Byron Creek, Michigan

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