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Photographer Captures the Surprising Beauty of Doomsday Seed Vaults

by Alice Riddell on March 4th, 02020

Kangaroo grass, themeda triandra, Photo courtesy Dornith Doherty 

Artist and professor, Dornith Doherty, has traveled to Svalbard, Norway and to Sussex, England, among others, to document the ethereal nature of the seeds stored in these sub zero temperature vaults. The Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex now contains more than 2.3 billion seeds, spanning more than 40,000 different species. As reported by Jessica Leigh Hester for Atlas Obscura, these “arks of the apocalypse”, are an excellent example of human foresight, as such stored seed archives are essential insurance against pests, disease and other forms of botanical destruction that could result in future famine. ‘Each seed bank is a botanical backup plan: The hope is that humans can draw on these reserves to save plant populations on the brink.’

Doherty discusses the experience of working in such extreme environments such as the Seed Vaults:

“Stepping into a seed vault still takes my breath away. They are always bitterly cold and filled with the sound of forced air roaring through the shelves. They are so cold that to enter them, you have to wear arctic parkas and gloves. It is awe-inspiring to be surrounded by fertile and diverse seeds resting in a state of suspended animation, preserved for a distant and unknowable future.”