Noah’s Ark in the Arctic

Millions of seeds have arrived to take refuge at the newly constructed Global Seed Vault. The project—a sort of Noah’s Ark for the 21st century—is located within a sub-zero-degree mountainside near Longyearbyen, in Norway’s remote Svalbard Islands, roughly 620 miles from the North Pole.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust helps run the vault and is accepting seeds from around the world in an effort to protect global crop diversity for day-to-day agricultural losses, as well as in the event of the worst global catastrophes: natural disasters, war, or the less sensational but no less damaging effects of poor crop management.

Food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea and sorghum were among the first shipment, as well as types of eggplant, lettuce, barley and potato seeds.

Although there are already about 1,400 seed banks around the world, many of them “can be affected by shutdowns, natural disasters, war or simply a lack of money,” according to Norway’s Agriculture Minister Terje Riis-Johansen in a statement.

The high-security, “fail–safe” facility in the Arctic is designed to secure the seeds for centuries or longer. In the worst-case scenarios of global warming, the GCDT says the seeds will remain naturally frozen for up to 200 years.