Doomsday deluge: Ongoing flood of articles about seed vault results in officials fencing off road during repairs


It’s been a month since The Guardian’s absurd story about the “flooding” of the Doomsday Vault, but new headlines and articles with various bits of nonsense are still appearing daily. And for the conspiracy theorists there’s a new wrinkle: a fence has suddenly been erected at the roadway entrance.

Not a very effective fence since anyone can walk around it on the edge of the road. But it and a sign with pictures of construction equipment are meant to let visitors know the area is a worksite where efforts to fix the so-called flooding are underway. Or so the official story goes.

Svalbardposten reported last week many were ignoring a simpler barrier across the road, resulting in the fence and vault officials meeting with tourism companies to discourage guiding people past it.

The barrage of global coverage is resulting in a deluge of interest (and ridicule) among visitors interested in seeing the vault, where drainage trenches and a watertight wall inside the entryway are now being built. There were more than three times as many searches for the vault than all other searches including the word “Svalbard” during the past month, according to Google Trends.

Much of what they’re reading invokes sensationalistic headlines and opening sentences, followed by more mundane material about how the vault needs a pricy upgrade, but the seeds are in no danger from the water that’s been trickling into entryway 100 meters away.

Take this Twilight Zone headline – “Seed Vault: Destination of world’s last man” – above an article at Blasting News that contains nary a peep about some suppositional sole survivor. Or one that edges close to a post-mortem of the facility by the U.K. publication The Conversation (motto: “academic rigour, journalistic flair”) is headlined “After Svalbard: why safety of world seed vaults is crucial to future food security.“ The author focuses largely on the need to significantly increase global crop production and develop new species to cope with climate change, but opens with more doomcrying about the Doomsday Vault.

“There is a fearful irony to recent news of flooding at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway,” the article states. “This was supposed to be humanity’s most impregnable bulwark against famine, but it is now endangered by global warming, one of the very threats that it was supposed to protect us from.”

The article does note that no seeds were harmed and vaults like the one in Svalbard are an important part of Earth’s food future – in the last three paragraphs of a 16-paragraph article.