Svalbard Will Soon Have Another "Doomsday Vault" For Storing Precious Literature

The entrance to the current seed bank in Svalbard burrows 145.9 meters (478.7 feet) down into surrounding rock. Crop Trust/Svalbard Global Seed Vault 

The “doomsday” Global Seed Vault on Norway's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is about to be joined by an offline archive for valuable data and important cultural relics, just in case of a nuclear apocalypse, natural disasters, or cyber attacks.

“Like what the Global Seed Vault is doing for plants, the Arctic World Archive is now doing for the world's digital heritage,” said Piql, the private Norwegian tech company leading the project.

The Arctic World Archive is hoping to work with governments, scientific institutions, authorities, companies, and even individuals to store analog film copies of their data here for safe keeping in a "disaster-proof" vault. Norway’s national broadcaster NRK has reported that representatives from Brazil's and Mexico's National Archives are already heading to Svalbard. In Mexico, the main concern is earthquakes destroying their archives while Brazil is more concerned about cybersecurity. There's no word yet on what they will be storing although it's most likely to be documents of political importance or historical and cultural significance.

Piql started with humble beginnings back in 2002, when they were simply a company who converted Hollywood and Bollywood films from digital to analog film format. While keeping this love for the analog form, they have since progressed and moved into the weightier world of data preservation.

It might surprise you that the possible fate of humanity will be stored on old-fashioned rolls of film, but the physical nature of the film means they are not at risk of manipulation or remote cyberattacks, the biggest threat to data protection.

The bank of data will lie buried deep within the permafrost of an abandoned coal mine in the mountainside near Longyearbyen, where the climate averages a frosty -4.7°C (23.45°F) and can plummet to a blistering -46.3°C (−51.3°F) in the depths of winter. However, within the vault, the conditions and temperature actually remain remarkably stable throughout the seasons, providing a cushy environment for the physical films.

Piql reckon the data could be securely preserved in the vault for over 1,000 years. Just like the Global Seed Vault, Svalbard is the chosen location because it is well-connected to the world, yet simultaneously a neutral demilitarized location away from global political threats, even if they do have to deal with the odd polar bear.

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