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Doomsday Vault

We take a lot for granted in this world. (Yes, we're coming over all serious…) Everywhere we go in our travels, there are plants threatened with extinction, and if we're to believe Al Gore, things could get an awful lot worse. Luckily, Mr Gore isn't the only one doing something about it. The Norwegian government recently revealed a design for the Svalbard International Seed Vault, which is currently being carved into frozen rock near the North Pole.
Nicknamed the 'Doomsday Vault', this bunker will attempt to preserve the world's diverse crops for future generations. A 120-meter entry tunnel is being blasted through the permafrost in a mountainside near the village of Longyearbye (above) in the Svalbard islands, 1000km north of mainland Norway. It will open into two large chambers capable of holding three million seed samples — representing nearly every food crop in the world. Amazingly, even without electricity, the region's thick rock and permafrost will keep the samples frozen.

It's just about as remote as you can imagine, and for a third of the year the region is immersed in total darkness. Nevertheless, scientists have decided they'd have a hard job concealing the vault's existence; so they've decided to make a design feature of the entrance portal. A narrow triangular structure, it will be illuminated with artwork that changes in the varying light of the Arctic, glowing gently in the winter and flashing brightly in the summer.

Construction has just started and is due to be finished in September 2007. The vault itself will officially open in late 2008.

Images: Statsbygg; Peter Vermeij/Global Crop Diversity Trust

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