Summer                                                                            Solstice Moon

Friend Tom Crane and his wife Roxann are going polar.  Not bi polar, but north polar, getting all the way to the 78th parallel.  Pretty damned far north when you consider the pole itself is 90 degrees north.  On a long list of populated areas by latitude there are only three closer to the north pole and I’m guessing they’re not the kind of places you’d go to get lost in.

(Svalbard in brown on a polar projection.)

Two years ago Kate and I visited Ushuaia, Argentina, the fin del mundo, as it bills itself.  It’s where expeditions for Antarctica set forth.  By contrast it is only at the 68th parallel, a full 10 degrees closer to the equator than Svalbard.

This is one lonely location, though it’s not as isolated, interestingly, as the Hawai’ian islands.  But, I’ll bet when you’re there, it feels more isolated.  Tom says he’s drawn to this trip by the very high caliber naturalists who are along to give lectures and guide.

Svalbard came to my attention, as perhaps to yours, not as a tourist destination for an Arctic experience, but as the home of the Svalbard Seed Vault.

(The entrance and the portion under glass were designed by Norwegian artist, Dyveke Sannes.)

What is it?  Here’s a quick explanation from their website:

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is established in the permafrost in the mountains of Svalbard, is designed to store duplicates of seeds from seed collections around the globe. Many of these collections are in developing countries. If seeds are lost, e.g. as a result of natural disasters, war or simply a lack of resources, the seed collections may be reestablished using seeds from Svalbard.”

Here are two typically nordic answers as to why they chose this location, especially the last sentence of reason 2.

1. Svalbard, as Norwegian territory, enjoys security and political and social stability. Norway understands the importance of preserving Svalbard as an area of undisturbed nature, which is now an important research and reference area. The seed vault fits ideally into this concept.

2.  Svalbard has an isolated position far out in the ocean, between 74° and 81° N and only 1000 kilometres from the North Pole. The archipelago is characterised by an undisturbed nature. Permafrost provides stable storage conditions for seeds. Besides which there is little risk of local dispersion of seed.



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