Inside the Doomsday Vault Above the Arctic Circle

The world's largest secure seed storage vault received its latest shipment.

Seeds from Africa's largest collection of rice germplasm arrived in Oslo on Feb. 1. They were then shipped to Svalbard, where seeds were stored on the vault's shelves last week when the seed vault was opened, according to pan-African intergovernmental research association AfricaRice.

"The aim of back-up of our collection at Svalbard is to conserve viable African rice diversity forever and available for research for the next generation of scientists," Marie Noelle Ndjiondjop, head of AfricaRice genetic resources unit, told ABC News.

The first boxes of Nordic forest tree seeds (Norway spruce and Scots pine) were also stored in the vault. In addition to conservation, the purpose of storing the seeds is to monitor changes in genetic diversity and breeding operations, according to the Norwegian government.

So far, 218 seed lots from the Norwegian Forest Seed Center have been selected for the Svalbard seed vault. The oldest one, a pine sample from Tranøy in Norway, is from 1938, the government said.

The vault has three rock vaults, 9.5 by 27 meters each.

"The seeds stored in the vault are packed in sealed bags inside sealed boxes and are placed on high shelf racks inside the vault," according to the Norwegian government.