Inside the Svalbard Seed Vault


So this is like the world’s most important freezer? It is. Really. *laughs* The most important room in the world, someone has said. These are pretty big claims for a place located just 1300 km, or 800 miles from the north pole. But then, this is no ordinary place. It’s the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Well, actually, this is just it’s front door. Inside the seed vault are a series of tunnels. It’s not actually that cold right here, but as we go deeper, it is only going to get colder. This is Bente You’re an engineer, Bente? Yes, I am Are you gonna show us where to go? *chuckles* Yeah Fantastic How many doors are there? One, two, three, four, five doors until we are into the secret room. Five doors to the secret room Woah. That’s what I’m talking about. These are the lenghts of tunnel that take you down into the seed vault. This facility was built to last around 200 years and withstand earthquakes and explosions. It was placed on the side of a mountain so even if all the ice on earth melts it will still be above sea level. There are three separate vault rooms where seeds are stored but only one of them is in use right now. And it’s buried over 120 meters from the front door. The whole point of putting the vaults so deep in this mountain is to put it within permafrost. So, all around me, the earth naturally stays around -4 or -5 all year round. And, that way, if something did happen and the cooling stopped flowing here, there was no power. Then, well, behind these doors it would still remain probably, you know, -4 or -5 Celsius, forever. Assuming, of course, global temperatures don’t rise that much. This place is sometimes called “The Doomsday Vault”, because even in a worst case scenario it should preserve the diversity of the world’s food crops. Now we are really in the mountain. Surrounded by permafrost. And, here’s a cross tunnel that leads to three vault doors. Vault number 1 is up there Vault number 2, and this is the one that is actually being used. And then, vault number 3. It’s pretty amazing to look up and see ice covered ceilings and walls everywhere. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault works essentially like a bank vault? Yes, it’s almost, yeah, because the seeds lay in the boxes like this. These boxes are sealed when they come to Svalbard. And none of us can open it We put it through the security system at the airports just to check that it isn’t any explosives or anything in it. But it works like a bank box. We can’t open this. Only the depositor can open and take out their seeds So you don’t open any of the seeds, any of the boxes that come here? No. Well. How do you know that people are really deposing the seeds, like barely they say they are not, and other things? Just because they have signed the contract. That’s it. We can’t be sure about it. Of course, we trust them. Would there be seeds for some crops that people might consider illicit, like marijuana That is said that that shall not be in here. No drugs and also no gene-modified material No genetically modified seeds go in here? Yeah, Norway has asked for that no genetical material is kept in here. Are there any particularity strange crops? Has anyone deposited anything that is really odd or weird? Ahhh.. No, nothing weird is in here, but we get some questions from people that wants to put in their own private seeds. I’ve also has had letters from men wanting to put their gene material in here. That is really strange and we don’t answer those. This is the door to the vault and behind here, there are nearly a million different varieties of seeds, from all over the world, kept at minus 18 degrees Celsius. You know how I can tell that it’s minus 18°C in here? You can actually feel the moisture in your nose freeze so, Your nostrils get all stiff… Yeah, And I see behind you we have some Canadian seeds, which is exciting for me because I am Canadian. So what sort of things do we have… From Canada, I’m really not… Not sure because… This box… On the outside doesn’t tell what’s in it, but, These numbers here are connected to a database on the internet so you can go in there afterwards. Derek: There you go. Bente: Yeah You can go find out what has Canada got stored in the Seed Vault. What are we looking at right here. It’s like a bank vault except everything that you’ve put in there is publicly available. Yeah, it is. (chuckles) These are the coolest boxes I think. They are from North Korea. Derek: Oh my goodness! Bente: Wooden hand made boxes Derek: They look like they come from the 1960s or something. Do you think? Bente: Yeah, they do. Derek: They built them specially. Bente: They built them specially because they got the measurements of how big should the boxes be and these are built exactly of those measurements. And here you see that North Korea is placed on the same shelf as USA, it’s just on the back there. It’s on the back side. And you have South Korea, just on the back. So here there are like in a small United Nations, deep in the mountains of Svalbard. (Chuckles) So these are the last few bare shelves in Vault 2. Once the other two vaults are full, there will be around 3 million different species of plants stored here with over 500 seeds per sample. So one day, there may be over a billion seeds stored inside this mountain, representing the vast majority of Earth’s agricultural diversity. And you don’t know today what kind of seeds that you can grow in 20, 30, 40 years from now, because of the climate change. Perhaps you have to use another type of seed thirty years from now that can handle warmer climate, dryer climate, wetter climate, whatever is going to happen. So that is why it’s so important to have a backup of all the seeds so that you are sure that you can also grow the food we need, for the next generations to come. But this isn’t the only seed bank on Earth. There are around 1700 other gene banks around the world, run by different countries and organizations. And, at a cost of $9 million to build the Svalbard seed vault and millions more to run it, it’s worth asking whether this is a costly redundancy, or a valuable insurance policy. And perhaps, the best people to answer this question are the Syrians, who, last year, were the first to make a withdrawal from the seed vault. The gene bank in Aleppo, in Syria, is now out of order, it’s been bombed. So one third of the material that is kept in here is now taken down to Morocco and Lebanon. And this is some of the material that now has been returned, so to get the material going again. So that’s why it’s empty. Will those seeds actually be used to grow crops? Yeah, they will. Yeah. Over the last 13 thousand years we have cultivated millions of species of plants. The agricultural revolution underpinned the technological and population explosions that made our modern lives possible. The risk of a real Doomsday scenario is incredibly remote. But, whatever happens, thanks to this outpost at the top of the world at least our seeds are safe. Hey, I’m currently on a train traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York City so I can’t talk to loud. And actually after Norway, I went to Seoul, South Korea, Los Angeles, Boston , New York and Washington, so it’s been some crazy travels for me. And on all these travels I’ve been listening to audio books from Audible who also support Veritasium which I am very thankful for. If you didn’t know already, Audible has like 250,000 titles in all areas of literature, including fiction, non-fiction and periodicals. And if you go to Audible.com/veritasium you can get a 30 day free trial of the website where you can just try out listening to a book. So if you are at all interested in listening to audio books, I highly recommend you check them out. And there is a book I can recommend to you, it is my favorite fiction book of all time. It’s called “Everything is Illuminated” by Jonathon Safran Foer. It is- I don’t know, its just such a complex interwoven novel, you have to read it or listen to it to know what i mean. But you can check it out. You can download that book for free for a one month trial or you can pick any other book of your choosing. So, I really want to thank Audible for supporting me and helping me go to all these amazing places. And I want to thank you for watching.

100 thoughts on “Inside the Svalbard Seed Vault”

  1. This is a joke no GMOs mankind has been modifying plants DNA since they found the ability to don't believe me look at this this is an apple from the 1960s Honeycrisp is an apple cultivar developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station's Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

  2. I hope they reconsider their insanely irrational decision to "opt-out of cannabis seeds" heirloom seeds and land-races are becoming extinct as is. One of the most beneficial and important plants in all of human history, yet profoundly ignorant humans are considering themselves above mother nature and considering it "illicit"; the one plant that can give all of the phytonutrients and phytocannabinoids we need to nourish the chief regulatory system in our body, the endocannabinoid system. Can you imagine if we treated all of the most important facilities in the world in charge of preserving life – like this? "Well, that animal is ugly, no need to save it… oh well, that animal didn't do much for us, or that insect was annoying – let's just sweep that one under the rug". Everything has a purpose, everything in mother nature is BALANCE. Humanity has a long way to go before understanding said balance… clearly.

  3. NOT marijuana??? What else is on the NOT list. Seeds are seeds, you stupid fuchs. The whole point to saving these seeds is so we don't irreversibly lose them. Whats the imperial criteria by which good seeds are identified from bad seeds??? Seeds don't know their good or bad, their just seeds. What scenario, where we have a need to dip into this vault??? And why not the genetic material from animals as well. Short on room??? What a grandiose waste.

  4. seems to me, if any "doomsday" scenario happened worth needing this, the world would be unable to grow plants for the lifetime of this place or people wouldnt have a way to get to them.. Seems like wed have to be very lucky to be able to use these if they were needed…

  5. They hiding something else in there…using "seeds" to cover it. All these elitist billionaires ready to kill us all off and have everything they need to restart.

  6. So if the worlds ending and we have to use these seeds, thank god the internet will still be on to find the beans lol

  7. Awwwsome your in Norway/Svalbard 😀 hope you'll have a great time, and enjoy my country bud 😉

  8. The statement that they don't keep "genetically modified plants" is wrong, because humanity has been modifying them for Hundreds of years. The food we eat would not exist the way it is otherwise. Many plants only were made edible by genetically modifying them.

  9. does it have like…. books about farming…… so our post apocalyptic descendants will know how to rebuild the earth?

  10. Would've been cool to see history or knowledge written on the walls of the tunnel to make it less boring, while additionally storing technological information too.

    Also hemp aside from the medical value, is considered a super food which also has many industrial uses, leaving it out because of outdated views saying it's a drug seems unscientific and makes the whole thing paradox.

  11. That was so cool (Lol) to watch!! I had no idea… & GMO FREE! Plus the Canadian guy is Hot so that made it xtra special😛

  12. Opinions on the SGSV
    China: Enough food to fuel my population! Woohoo!
    North Korea: No more deadly famines! Yay!
    USA: 9.1 trillion hamburgers! Oh f*ck yeah!

  13. If dooms day event happens how are people suppose to use these seeds to re-populate? It's like a military bunker with security key cards etc. Survivors won't be able to get at um.
    Hell most people need GPS just to go to Walmart let alone Norway. Satellites will be gone. This is Only for heads of state and thier bunker choosen I guess lol

  14. I don't get it. Build three vaults, number them, and start filling number 2 first? Who does that? Defund this place, now.

  15. THIS IS WHY I LOVE THOS CHAAANNNEEEL!!!!!

    When most care about vip access to celebrities. I am so excited to finally see what’s inside this vault 😂😂😂

  16. Let’s take a minute to contemplate how sad it is that they keep absolutely no Cannabis seeds in this giant volt supposed to « preserve » the biodiversity of our Planet. Lmao

  17. OH NO! Any grain could be used to make alcohol (gasp, a drug) not to mention sugar, corn, agave, and on and on… Alcohol beyond doubt causes more suffering and death than all the other narcotic plants combined. Utter nonsense!

  18. I have a video suggestion. Can you explain why some water melons are gritty and don't taste good. I would like the scientific reasons for this. Is there a way to know what I'm buying?

  19. I Dont believe that there is no cannabis, opium poppies etc inside there.. our medicine is based on pharmacology..

  20. They dont include cannabis seeds to be preserved for future use… when it's already proven to be used for as medicated drug.

  21. cant believe that 90% of comments complain about no cannabis seeds in the vault, deluded much. and I guess we know from which country they are from. walmarties teens

  22. They should allow genetically modified seeds, that are modified to make plants survive better in different climates, that way if the earth dramatically shifts in climate we'll still be ok and all the seeds wont be useless

  23. A vault system designed to remain functional after the end of modern society, post doomsday…with a reference system that requires internet access….adds up

  24. talking of gene material, i wonder if they actually preserve the genoma of all species who are in danger of extintion, if not i really think it would be as important.

  25. Bente: "No genetically modified material goes in here."
    Me: Does that mean they have the disgusting green short bananas with giant seeds and the small watermelons with no red part?

  26. Wait till genetics develop far enough.. the other two volts will be filled with frozen embryos from different species

  27. This will be like fossil. I don’t think these seed will helpful in future as , future will be evolved based on future situation

  28. it's totally stupid they don't allow cannabis , or things considered like drugs
    because even if you are against it , there is plenty of substance in those "drugs" who are very useful for medicine ad science like opium poppy seed which serve to make morphin

  29. she says theres no drugs in there but im 100% sure every drug that u can grow is in there. why wouldnt they be if someone deposited the seeds and they cant open majority of them.

  30. I wonder how Human are so sure of doomsday but won't stop their action & save this beautiful Planet.
    So sure about their deeds.
    Secondly,how the hell they made such structure in North Pole😂😂
    I mean how they supplied whole of materials.

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