Buried 500 feet inside a mountain north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an attempt to save copies of every seed used to grow food in the world. In theory, it should last 1,000 years, safe from climate change, nuclear war, or an asteroid.
A recent video takes viewers on a tour, showing how the vault tunnels into the mountain and where the seeds–now numbering more than 860,000, from all around the world–are being stored until they’re needed.
Because the vault is inside permafrost, the seeds will stay cold even if the power fails. The vault is also high enough on the mountain that even if all the ice in the world melted, the building would stay above sea level. Because it’s so remote–the farthest north that it’s possible to fly on a scheduled flight–the location also helps protect it from human destruction.
In a post-apocalyptic world, the seeds could be used to rebuild agriculture. But the vault is meant to be useful even without a global disaster. In 2015, Syrian researchers made the first withdrawal, pulling out backup seeds they had originally deposited from a local seed bank that had to be abandoned because of war. Now, those seeds will be used to continue research about which crops can best survive drought as the climate changes.
When it’s full, the vault will hold as many as 4.5 million varieties of crops, and 2.5 billion seeds.