What is the global seed vault in Svalbard

(ORDO NEWS) — Almost nothing happens on the island of Svalbard – permafrost, rocks and tundra, even the nearest centers of tectonic activity are far from here. The inhospitable and harsh climate makes the local nature extremely scarce.

There are very few microbes, fungal spores and dust in the cold and dry air, and the remains of animals and buildings abandoned by people remain unchanged for decades.

But for the World Seed Vault, this eternal rest creates almost ideal conditions. According to scientists, plant seeds can be stored here for hundreds or even thousands of years without any problems.

Energy for the “ark” is supplied by a separate mini-CHP, which burns coal mined right there on the island. Five steel doors, through which you can get inside, are locked with combination locks. The storage itself, which has an area of ​​more than 1000 m 2 , maintains a stable temperature of −18 °C.

Even in the event of a global catastrophe and a complete power outage, the interior will only warm up to the temperature of the surrounding rock (-3 ° C) in a few months.

It is estimated that it will take at least 200 years before the air inside warms up to zero. Even a critical rise in sea level will not affect this place: the storage is located as much as 130 m higher.

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The World Seed Vault in Svalbard was commissioned by the Norwegian government. The symbolic “first stone” was laid in 2006, and two years later, the collections of seeds collected over the previous 20 years moved here and began to replenish with new valuable samples from all over the world.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which maintains the polar seed vault, offers it as a reliable “backup” for other gene banks in the world, more prone to vicissitudes of fate.

For example, the bank of the International Center for Dry Agriculture (ICARDA), which once operated in the Aleppo region, managed to save its collection by sending it here to Svalbard.

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Clay tablets

Information is the most valuable thing we have. And if we can save the genetic for thousands of years, then all the huge baggage of culture and knowledge that humanity has accumulated, in case of trouble, may not be preserved at all.

The lifetime of modern data carriers is calculated in tens, maximum hundreds of years. Paper won’t last much longer, so good old-fashioned clay tablets may be the most reliable carriers.

Babylonian tablets dating back 5,000 years are known, and even Japanese ceramic artifacts that have survived from the Jomon period are more than 13 thousand years old.

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The Memory of Mankind (MOM) vault is located in a salt mine near Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps. A tunnel with a diameter of less than a meter leads to a depth of about 2 km, which in a few centuries will be closed by rocks.

Everything that will be collected inside will be in a grandiose “time capsule” that can stand for millions of years until the archaeologists of the future get to these riches.

“Long-known technologies will help us leave a long and visible footprint far into the future,” Austrian researcher Martin Kunze told us, busy filling the mountain treasury. To facilitate the work of future historians, all information is stored strictly in analog form.

For this, two types of clay tablets are used. The first (level1) are ordinary processed ceramic tiles measuring 20 x 20 x 0.6 cm, on which a four-color pattern is applied (with a resolution of 300 dpi) and fired.

Another type of media Kunze calls “ceramic microfilm” – these are plates already millimeter thick, additionally protected by a glass coating. Information is applied to them with a laser beam that burns out a drawing – a map, graph or picture – or text.

A fairly high recording density allows you to place up to 5 million characters on a square. According to Kunze, to record the entire cycle of Harry Potter novels, a couple of tablets are enough, which can wait at least a million years to be read by our distant descendants someday.

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So far, the Svalbard storage facility is less than a quarter full: almost 900,000 species, about 500 seeds each. Everyone who participates in the work or funding of the IOM receives a clay tablet on which the location of the repository is marked with an accuracy of 10 m.

Kunze hopes that several tablets will survive and in the future they will help archaeologists find treasures hidden under the mountains. One of them might even go to the moon.


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