Was the Scorpion version of a global seed vault depicted well?

Jack Patterson's picture

On Scorpion’s episode entitled, “Dirty Seeds, Done Dirt Cheap,” Team Scorpion traveled to a seed vault in Greenland to save the world’s heirloom seed supply from thawing out. But don’t worry—the engineers who created the actual Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, are much smarter than the fictitious vault and myriad problems created by the show’s writers.

When I was researching to write SEEDS OF WAR and traveled to Svalbard, I learned just how intentionally designed the Global Seed Vault was, starting with the location.

In Scorpion’s version, agent Cabe Gallo claims the Graense Seed Vault is modeled after the vault in Svalbard when he’s setting up the problem. However, if it truly were, there would’ve never been the need for Team Scorpion to get involved. The Global Seed Vault was constructed into the side of a mountain that has widespread permafrost and is never in any real danger of the seeds going bad as the temperatures rarely get much above 40 degrees outside, keeping the air cool and dry inside. Cool as in frozen. The vault was built so the seeds could withstand an extended power outage, the end-of-the-world kind of outage.

It was amusing watching the characters enter and exit the front of the building with a glass door. Uh, no. Think doors that can withstand a nuclear blast. Yep, that’s the kind of doors the Global Seed Vault has. As you can see in my picture, these are not flimsy glass doors leading to the outside. Once you enter these huge doors, you still have to walk about 30 meters through a small corridor where workers get outfitted with safety gear before going another 100 meters deeper into the mountain before reaching the vaulted area.

While the show nailed it when describing the vault as unmanned, the scenes of team members wandering around in warm rooms was also unrealistic. Think parkas. It’s cold in there all the time. In every room. Why would a vault that only contains seeds need several rooms to be warm? In reality, there are only a few rooms anyway, and the vault requires coolant system that runs off 10KW to keep the seeds at -18C. Brrrr.

The show did a good job of showing what the seeds are stored in—plastic containers and boxes that aren’t so flashy. However, there is one country that has hand-carved wooden boxes: North Korea. Also of note is that the U.S. seeds are located right next to the North Koreans. There’s a conspiracy for you . . . if, God forbid, we ever need those seeds to restart civilization.

If you want to learn more about the Global Seed Vault, check out their interactive visit here. Or if you want to learn more about the mysterious archipelago of Svalbard in a rip-roaring adventure, check out Seeds of War.