The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is carved into a hillside above Longyearbyen airport, 130 meters above sea level. The entrance portal is a simple concrete construction that has gained status as a global icon, in part due to “Perpetual Repercussion”, an illuminated fiber optic art installation created by the Norwegian artist, Dyveke Sanne, that decorates the entrance. Many Svalbard visitors go the Vault’s entrance to take selfies and tick off “been there”.
The Seed Vault, carved into virgin solid rock was opened on 26 February 2008. The seed storage area itself is located more than 100 meters inside the mountain, and under layers of rock that range between 40 and 60 meters thick.
Cooled to minus 18°C
The mountain mass has permafrost, with a stable temperature of between minus 3 and 4°C. The seed storage area has an additional cooling system, to bring the seed storing temperature to minus 18°C and ensure that it remains constant. Electricity for the Seed Vault is provided by the public power plant in Longyearbyen. In addition, the Seed Vault is equipped with generators that provide electricity in the case of a power outage.
The seed store facility consists of three halls, each with a base measuring about 9.5 x 27 meters. Each hall can accommodate about 1.5 million seed samples, thus giving the Seed Vault a total capacity to store 4.5 million seed accessions. To date, the holdings in the Seed Vault are close to 900,000 seed samples. Only one of the three halls is in use, cooled to minus 18°C and equipped with shelves for seed boxes. When this hall reaches capacity, the second storage hall will be prepared and cooled to the level needed for seed conservation.