Take a virtual tour of the ‘doomsday’ Global Seed Vault on a Norwegian island

August 4, 2023

Would you like a tour of one of the world’s most exclusive venues? It may not be the hottest club in Manhattan or the chicest Instagram backdrop in Paris, but only a select few get to see the inside of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

The doors only open a few times a year for scarcely a handful of privileged people—but now there’s a way to beat the odds: A virtual tour is enabling everyone to peer inside the concrete “doomsday” collection of seeds from around the world, reports My Modern Met.

Start at the entrance and work your way through the snow-shrouded interior of the mountain to learn more about the 1.2 million seeds deposited inside.

Opened in 2008, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the world’s backup reserve of seeds from plants both common and rare. The location was chosen for its relative insulation from warming climates and its remoteness.

The building, which looks like a concrete “pride rock,” was carved into the side of Plateau Mountain. It stands alone against the cold landscape. Some of the vault lies under 400 feet of rock, and five metal doors separate the seeds within from the world outside. Inside, towers of shelves hold thousands of boxes containing seeds in aluminum envelopes. A low temperature of -18 degrees Celcius preserves this precious material.

The aluminum envelopes contain over 1.2 million samples of plant seeds from around the world. Each envelope can hold 500 seeds, and the entire vault has the “capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops,” according to Crop Trust.

So, why collect these crops? Many countries, in fact, have their own gene banks around the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the backup to these local reserves, in case for some reason they are unavailable or depleted.

For example, the vault stepped up to provide samples in 2015 for the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) after a seed bank in Aleppo, Syria, became unusable during the nation’s civil war. Now, 15 years into its mission, the vault’s collection continues to grow.

“From here in Svalbard, the world looks different. This seed vault represents hope, unity, and security,” says Stefan Schmitz, executive director of the Crop Trust and a co-manager of the vault, in a statement. “In a world where the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, natural catastrophes, and conflicts increasingly destabilize our food systems, it has never been more important to prioritize safeguarding these tiny seeds that hold so much potential to adapt our future food to such global threats.”

Explore this potential yourself through the virtual tour, by Virtual Tour Company. Click the arrows to “walk,” or use the map function to see the entire amazing facility.

Research contact: @mymodernmet