'Doomsday' Vault Opens to Protect Seeds
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Associated Press
Posted: March 3rd, 2008
It's been dubbed a Noah's Ark for plant life and built to withstand an earthquake or a nuclear attack. Dug deep into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, the "doomsday" vault is designed by Norway to protect the world's seeds from global catastrophe. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a backup to the world's 1,400 other seed banks, was to be officially inaugurated in a ceremony Tuesday on the northern rim of civilization attended by about 150 guests from 33 countries. The frozen vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples from around the globe, shielding them from climate change, war, natural disasters and other threats. Norway's government owns the vault in Svalbard, a frigid archipelago 620 miles from the North Pole. The Nordic country paid $9.1 million for construction, which took less than a year. Other countries can deposit seeds for free and reserve the right to withdraw them upon need. Giant air conditioning units have chilled the vault to just below zero, a temperature at which experts say many seeds could survive for 1,000 years. Inside the concrete entrance ... a roughly 400-foot-long tunnel of steel and concrete leads to three separate 32-by-88-foot chambers where the seeds will be stored. The first 600 boxes with 12 tons of seeds already have arrived from 20 seed banks around the world, Norwegian Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen said. Each chamber can hold 1.5 million packets holding all types of crop seeds, from carrots to wheat.