Norway’s ‘Doomsday Vault’ Will Now Preserve World’s Data

April 6, 2017

The World Arctic Archive opened this week, adding interesting features to its neighboring seed vault. The vault often called the “Doomsday Vault” is known for storing as many types of seeds as possible. Now, similar research groups want to expand what remains after the apocalypse to include film-based data.

World’s Data

Norwegian company Piql is converting digital data from the internet onto a durable, photosensitive analog film. The company says the film can last between 500 to 1,000 years. A country interested in the process can upload images, documents or audio-visual content onto the servers. For as long as those protected servers remain functional, the saved information can be searched.

“It’s digital data preserved, written onto photosensitive film,” Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand told Live Science. “So we write data as basically big QR codes on films.”

He explained that data would be sent to film writers the way office data gets transmitted to the printer. There’s a secure IT network, and once it prints the film, that film cannot be edited. The vault sits in Svalbard, Norway, several hundred miles away from the North Pole. The film archive will not exist in the same bank as the Global Seed Vault, but it can be found in an abandoned coal mine relatively close by.

The Global Seed Vault which stores more than 1 million different seed varieties spanning the globe [Image Source: Veritasium via YouTube]

Piql, founded in 2002, converts digital information to analog specifically to preserve information in multiple forms. In this highly digitized world, Piql’s specialties seem counterintuitive. However, analog data could be the only way what’s left of humanity can remember history post-apocalypse.

And yes, countries are taking Piql up on its offer. Thus far, Brazil and Mexico have both sent information from their respective National Archives to be stored in the Norwegian facility.

“In their case, [the deposit] is documents, different kinds of documents from their national histories, like, for example, the Brazilian Constitution,” Bjerkestrand said. “For Mexico, it’s important documents, even from the Inca period, which is a very important historical memory.”

[Editor’s note: The Inca people weren’t found in Mexico nor in Central America at all. They lived in the Andes Mountian region of southern Chile and down into southern Colombia. The era in which they lived spanned from 1438 AD to the Spanish arriving in 1532. This period of time could be what Bjerkestrand refers to here rather than information about the civilization itself.]

The Doomsday Seed Vault

While it might seem excessive to some, the seed doomsday vault has already been opened. In 2015, officials withdrew barley, wheat and grasses native to Syria to replace seeds lost in a gene bank in Aleppo. The gene bank had been destroyed by the Syrian unrest and war.

This information surfaced on April 1, so several skeptics have believed it to be a well-planned April Fools’ Day hoax. However, with the popularity of the nearby seed bank, this analog storage bank is very much real.

For more information, you can read up about the archive here.

SEE ALSO: A Look Inside the ‘Doomsday Vault’ that Houses the World’s Seeds