Svalbard: Home of the Global Seed Vault
The polar archipelago is known for its cold climate, glaciers and frozen tundra. Svalbard is also known as the land of the midnight sun, and many visit to catch a glimpse of the stunning northern lights. Though the polar landscape may seem harsh and barren, there’s a thriving arctic wildlife both on land and in the sea. In fact, Svalbard has more polar bears than people!
Beyond its fantastic natural landscape and interesting wildlife, Svalbard also plays host to one of the most important resources securing humanity’s food supply for future generations: the Global Seed Vault. Let’s take a closer look at what Svalbard has to offer!
Where is Svalbard?
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago situated in the Arctic Ocean, north of the Arctic Circle. Located just 1300 km from the North Pole, Svalbard is one of the world’s most northern inhabited areas.
There are a lot of adventures to be had in Svalbard, but the activities you should plan for your time there depend on when you’re planning to visit. Going on a tour or excursion is highly recommended, as the guides in Svalbard have fantastic local knowledge to share.
Despite its remote location, Svalbard offers a range of different accommodations for travelers.
How to get to Svalbard
There are several ways to get to Svalbard. The easiest way is by plane, with regular flights to and from Oslo and Tromsø. The flight time is 3 hours from Oslo and less than 2 hours from Tromsø. Svalbard’s only airport is located in Longyearbyen, which is a tiny metropolis serving as the administrative centre of Svalbard. In the summer months, you can also travel to Svalbard by cruise ship.
The Global Seed Vault
Nestled deep within a mountain on Spitsbergen, a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, you’ll find the Global Seed Vault. This security facility stores seeds from all across the world – in fact, it is the largest collection of crop diversity in the world.
The Vault is a seed storage facility that has been built to provide long-term storage of seed duplicates that are conserved in genebanks around the globe. It’s meant as a backup, protecting the world’s food supply against possible loss of seeds in genebanks due to mismanagement or disasters. The Vault ensures that in a worst-case scenario, the agricultural advancement human beings have made for thousands of years will survive.
The Vault has been termed “the most important room in the world” due to the purpose it serves as a hugely important resource for the future of mankind. The Vault represents an insurance policy for the world’s food supply, ensuring that future generations may be better able to face the issues of climate change and population growth.
Today, the Vault stores more than 1,000,000 seed samples, originating from almost every country in the world. It has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops, and new samples are continually added. The Global Seed Vault was established and funded by the Norwegian government, but every nation on earth has a vested interest in preserving the vault. You can read more about this important project here.
Known by some as “the doomsday vault”, the facility was designed with longevity in mind. Even if the power goes out, the seeds it holds will stay frozen for 200 years due to the fact that the facility is set deep within a mountain of thick rock and buried in permafrost.
When is the best time to visit Svalbard?
Svalbard can be visited all year round, but you should plan your visit carefully to ensure you go at the right time for you. The climate is cold, and the changing seasons will have a big impact on the activities you can take on during your trip.
In the summer (from around May-September), you’ll find fairly warm temperatures for this arctic playground. This is also the time period in which the midnight sun comes out, so a lot of people want to visit during the summer months in order to see this stunning natural phenomenon. Visiting Svalbard during summer is perfect for those interested in walks, mountain hikes, kayaking and much more. Summer in Svalbard is a truly magical time of year, but there won’t be snow on the ground – so if you’d like to explore the arctic landscape, winter may be a better time for you to visit Svalbard.
In the winter (October-February), you’ll experience the cold climate of the arctic. At this time of year, Svalbard is cold and dark. In fact, there is a 2,5 month period in which Svalbard is pitch dark both day and night. Lasting from November to January, this is known as the “Polar Night”. The dark gives visitors an excellent chance to see the beautiful aurora borealis dancing across the sky. In fact, Svalbard is the only place on earth where you can see the northern lights during the daytime.
In the spring (between March-May), the sun comes back out and the temperature gets milder. This is a fantastic time of year to visit Svalbard if you’d like to go on some fun excursions like dog sledding, snowmobiling or a cruise.