Svalbard, the Norwegian island halfway between Europe and the North Pole, is a place of extremes. It’s the northernmost place in the world where people live year-round. There are no roads between settlements, so everyone gets from town to town by air, sea, or snowmobile. It’s home to 2600 people, seven national parks, 23 nature reserves, and several coal mines. But its greatest resource is meant to stay buried in the ground for as long as possible—a collection of 430,000,000 seeds, wrapped in heat-sealed packets, waiting for the end of the world.
The seeds live in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, established in 2008 as the largest seed bank in the world. The Vault protects the world’s agricultural diversity by keeping a stash of seeds secure in a location far from harm. If these seeds’ corresponding crops out in the wider world get wiped out by some man-made or natural disaster, the seeds will be brought out to save the day. Until then, these tiny residents, “the final back up,” in their caretakers’ words, will stay in the Vault, supercooled and super-safe, for hundreds or even thousands of years. – atlasobscura.com