What you see here is a highly secured vault in a remote area of the Arctic.

But what’s protected inside is more important than a few hundred kilos of gold bars.

So what's inside?

Over 1 million seed samples from around the world.

A thread on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault:
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built in 2008 in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard -- only 650 miles from the North Pole.

In fact, Svalbard is the northernmost year-round settlement on the planet, with 2,200 people living there 365 days per year.
The Norwegian Government funded the construction of the vault in 2008 with $8.8m.

Its purpose?

To safely store seed duplicates from around the world in the event that genebanks are destroyed by farm mismanagement, accidents, equipment malfunctions...or worse:

In short, the vault is the ‘the ultimate insurance policy for the world’s food supply’.

But why do we need to 'back up' our seeds?

Well, the loss of a crop variety - be it by natural disaster or an atomic bomb - is as ‘irreversible as the extinction of a dinosaur.'
So in the event a critical seed responsible for feeding hundreds of millions of people were to be destroyed, there'd - in principle - be a back-up stored at Svalbard.
The seeds are stored 100 meters into a mountain at a freezing -18°C/0.4°F.

There are currently 1,081,026 samples stored there, with a capacity to store 4.5 million samples (or 2.5 billion seeds) in total.

The seeds at Svalbard represent 13,000 years of agricultural history.
While this may all seem...silly, consider these figures:

-Only about 30 crops provide 95% of food-energy needs

-The US has lost 90% of its fruit and vegetable varieties since the 1900s

As such, a lack of biodiversity in crops make them (and us!) far more vulnerable.
The vault is operated today by the Crop Trust, a non-profit based in Germany.

Their mission?

‘We race to rescue crop diversity in danger of disappearing forever.’
But the seeds at Svalbard aren't just an insurance policy. They're a statement.

Crop Trust’s Brian Lainoff:

“The seeds don’t care that there are North Korean seeds and South Korean seeds in the same aisle. They are cold and safe up there, and that’s all that really matters.”
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More from @DavidZabinsky

8 Sep
Any idea what this is?

This strange spider-looking-thing - seen from over 1,500 feet in the air - sits mysteriously in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

But perhaps more interesting than the spider itself are the possible explanations behind it.

A thread on the ‘Nazca Lines’:
As much as 1,500 years ago (!!!), different Peruvian cultures, such as the Nazca, Chavin, and Paracas people, created a series of head-scratching drawings by removing dirt, soil, and rocks from the earth.

These types of images are called ‘geoglyphs.’
These geoglyphs are big.

I mean, really big.

Some of the Nazca Lines are just, well, lines...stretching 30 miles (nearly 50 km) long.

The more sophisticated drawings?

Some measure up to 1,200 feet (365 meters)...as tall as the Empire State Building.
Read 15 tweets
10 Aug
A thief steals hundreds of millions of dollars of artwork from you

Decades later, he sells the stolen art to other collectors and makes a fortune

Over 120 years later, he returns the artwork to you, except it's only a FRACTION of what was stolen!

This. All. Happened.

The year is 1897, and over 1,000 British troops storm the Kingdom of Benin: a well-developed, sovereign empire in what is current-day Nigeria.

The British plan was to depose the Benin Empire's king and annex the territory, which was situtated strategically on the African coast.
When they arrived, the British didn't just annex.

They pillaged.

They destroyed.

One historian wrote that the British "scorched the earth with rockets, fire and mines."

They killed civilian men, women, and children.

With so much death, Benin City "reeked of human blood."
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26 Jul
Gates, Bezos, Musk

We've heard their stories

But how about the story of Mansa Musa, former King of the Mali Empire, whose wealth and influence were SO vast that he at one point owned half of the world's gold and single-handedly caused a $1.5bn crash in the Middle East?

1) Musa became Mansa (king or emperor) of the Mali Empire in 1312 and ruled until 1337

Annexing 24 cities during his reign, he saw his kingdom expand over 2,000 miles, taking up much of West Africa

Naturally, ownership of so much land came with ownership of so much...gold
2) Still relatively unknown outside of West Africa in the year 1324, Musa decided to organize a trip that'd be heard all around the world

He gathered a caravan of 60,000 men (soldiers, entertainers, and slaves) dressed in gold and silk to make the 2,700mi pilgrimage to Mecca
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