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In Photos: Take a Tour of the World's 'Doomsday' Seed Vault

Welcome to Svalbard

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago located about 746 miles (1,200 kilometers) from the North Pole. The island is known for its frozen tundra, snowy landscapes and dramatic glaciers.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago located about 746 miles (1,200 kilometers) from the North Pole. The island, known for its frozen tundra, snowy landscapes and dramatic glaciers, is also home to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. [Read more about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault]

Vault entrance

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located underground on a remote island in the Arctic Circle, is the world's largest security storage for seeds.

(Image credit: Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix/Zuma)

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located underground, is the world's largest security storage for seeds.

Loading zone

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Front Door

(Image credit: Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix/Zuma)

The vault was designed to protect all of the world's important crop seeds in case of a man-made or natural disaster. Here, Aasmund Asdal, coordinator of the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, carries crates of seeds from Japan and the United States into the seed vault in Svalbard.

Down the tunnel

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Entrance Tunnel

(Image credit: CPC Collection/Alamy)

To access the seed vault, visitors must pass through four locked doors: the heavy steel entrance doors, a second door approximately 380 feet (115 meters) down the tunnel and finally the two keyed air-locked doors. Here's a view down the entrance tunnel toward the offices and storage chambers in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

In the tundra

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Main Chamber

(Image credit: Newscom)

The secure vault has a capacity to hold 4.5 million grains. It currently stores seeds from cultures all over the world in an effort to preserve genetic diversity and defend against major food crises. The seed vault is housed about 430 feet (130 meters) below sea level, which guarantees that the seeds will remain dry even in the face of rising sea levels and melting glaciers.

Vault entrance

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is carved into the Arctic permafrost. Here, a researcher is seen accessing the vault's entrance.

(Image credit: National Geographic Creative/Alamy)

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is carved into the Arctic permafrost. Here, a researcher is seen accessing the vault's entrance. [Read more about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault]

Nice and cold

In the vault's main storage room, seeds are kept at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

(Image credit: National Geographic Creative/Alamy)

In the vault's main storage room, seeds are kept at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

Seed stocks

Boxes with seeds from around the world are saved for posterity in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault can hold 4.5 million seed samples — and since each sample contains about 500 seeds, a maximum of 2.25 billion seeds will fit into the vault.

(Image credit: Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix/Zuma)

Boxes with seeds from around the world are saved for posterity in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The vault can hold 4.5 million seed samples — and since each sample contains about 500 seeds, a maximum of 2.25 billion seeds will fit into the vault.

Seed preservation

The seeds are kept in bags inside the vault. The arctic permafrost offers natural freezing for the seeds, but the vault also has additional cooling to keep temperatures at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

(Image credit: Anna Filipova/Reuters/ Newscom)

The seeds are kept in bags inside the vault. The arctic permafrost offers natural freezing for the seeds, but the vault also has additional cooling to keep temperatures at minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

Seed bank

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was officially opened on Feb. 26, 2008, and functions as a giant icebox of sorts for the world's important crop seeds.

(Image credit: National Geographic Creative/Alamy)

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was officially opened on Feb. 26, 2008, and functions as a giant icebox of sorts for the world's important crop seeds. [Read more about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault]