Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Doomsday Seed Vault

Cols and I are off to Gensan today to spend Christmas there. The kids went ahead last weekend so its just the two of us to the airport. I brought along the latest book by James Rollins, The Doomsday Key. I've been hooked to Rollins' stuff ever since Judas Strain. His stories are very fast-paced and have enough elements of science and conspiracy theories to go head-to-head with popcorn novelist, Dan Brown.

The Doomsday Key is no exception. It mixes Celtic rituals and Christian history with modern-day physics and biological warfare. This is part of the Sigma Force series, which is a fictional commando group working under DARPA.

A major part of the storyline involves a real place in northern Norway called Svalbard. Its a very remote location which is largely inhabited by polar bears and a small population mainly catering to research and tourism. Svalbard is home to something called the Global Seed Vault. Its lock a global safety deposit box for seeds coming from all corners of the world. The theory is -- should something go horribly wrong in the future and wipe out our plant system, we should be able to re-grow (or bio-engineer) the plant from the seed stored here. Hence, it is also sometimes called the Doomsday Vault.

This sounds like science fiction but its quite real. The Global Seed Vault "trust fund" is funded by several private companies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is also subsidized and protected by Norway.

The vault is up in the mountains and way above sea level. So in case there is a major rise in sea level due to global warming, it will not easily get flooded. The major tunnels are buried inside a mountain, and with the geographical location very close to the North Pole, it is guaranteed of a freezer-like temperature to keep the seeds in a frozen state even if electricity conks out for weeks.

Still think its doesn't exist? Here are real video clips of the inauguration of the vault.

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