A winter warmer: for the LA Review of Books, biologist Sophia Roosth heads to Svalbard and the doomsday seed vault in the dead of polar winter, languidly drifting past dead bodies and dead viruses preserved by permafrost.
Platåberget is full of vaults and faults, graves and caves. The mountain is now a place to unearth coal and bury coal miners, to immortalize seeds and resurrect viruses. On Platåberget, viruses that lived and died in the past have lately erupted into the present; ruins of coal mines are persistently in the present; and seeds in the vault are artifacts of the present that are now buried for future disinterral. At the ends of the earth, time seems out of joint. Here in the polar north, viruses, coal, and seeds are geopolitical and climatological relics, telling tales of coal extraction, contested land claims, and crumbling empires.