''Doomsday'' Seed Vault Opens Near North Pole

''Doomsday'' Seed Vault Opens Near North Pole
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Seen from behind, the entrance to the underground Svalbard Global Seed Vault juts toward Arctic waters on its opening day, February 26, 2008.

Located about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) from the North Pole, the Svalbard islands' remoteness should help safeguard the up to 4.5 million seeds that may eventually be stored in the vaults frozen chambers—not to mention the polar bears that prowl these Norwegian shores.

An international whaling station in the 17th and 18th centuries, the treeless, West Virginia-size archipelago is now mainly dedicated to coal mining. With about 60 percent of its land covered by glaciers and snowfields—and despite the bounty of seeds now buried inside it—Svalbard is icily inhospitable to farming of any kind.

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—Photograph by John McConnico/AP
 
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