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Arctic World Archive

Coordinates: 78°14′17.9″N 15°26′49.5″E / 78.238306°N 15.447083°E / 78.238306; 15.447083
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Arctic World Archive
Arctic World Archive is located in Svalbard
Arctic World Archive
Location within Svalbard
General information
AddressVei 706
Town or cityLongyearbyen
Coordinates78°14′17.9″N 15°26′49.5″E / 78.238306°N 15.447083°E / 78.238306; 15.447083
Elevation130 m (430 ft)
OpenedMarch 27, 2017; 7 years ago (2017-03-27)
Official website

The Arctic World Archive (AWA) is a facility for data preservation, located in the Svalbard archipelago on the island of Spitsbergen, Norway, not far from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It contains data of historical and cultural interest from several countries, as well as all of American multinational company GitHub's open source code, in a deeply buried steel vault, with the data storage medium expected to last for 500 to 1,000 years. It is run as a profit-making business by private company Piql and the state-owned coal-mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK).


Piql is a Norwegian data-storage company that specialises in long-term storage of digital media. Piql and SNSK created the deeply buried steel vault out of a mineshaft of an abandoned coal mine. At the time of its opening as the Arctic World Archive on 27 March 2017, the Brazilian, Mexican and Norwegian governments deposited copies of various historical documents in the vault.[1][2][3]


The Svalbard archipelago, situated north of mainland Norway, about 970 kilometres (600 mi) from the North Pole,[4] is declared demilitarised by 42 nations, as established in the Svalbard Treaty signed after World War I.[1] This means that the territory cannot be used for military purposes, and the company describes the location as "one of the most geopolitically secure places in the world".[5][6] The archive facility is on Spitsbergen, the biggest island in Svalbard.[7]

The facility is a large steel vault[7] located somewhere between 150 metres (490 ft)[5] and 300 metres (980 ft) below the ground or permafrost[7][4] inside an abandoned coal mine (Store Norske Gruve 3) that reaches over 300 metres (980 ft) into the side of a mountain.[5][8][9] The facility is secured with a concrete wall and a steel gate. The deposits themselves are stored in secure shipping containers behind the gate.[10]

Because of the island's Arctic climate and resulting permafrost, even if the power to the facility failed, the temperature inside the vault would remain below freezing point, which is cold enough to preserve the vault's contents for decades or more,[5] with the vault 250 metres (820 ft) below the permafrost.[7] The vault is situated deeply enough to avoid damage even from nuclear and EMP weapons.[8]

Storage and future use[edit]

Data is stored offline on film reels made using a refined version of ordinary darkroom photography technology.[1][4] The film is made of polyester coated in silver halide crystals[7] and powder-coated with iron oxide, and has a life span of at least 500 and possibly up to 2,000 years, if stored in optimum conditions.[6]

The level of security of the data represents the "cold layer" of archiving. The "hot" (accessible online repositories) and "warm" (e.g. Internet Archive) layers both have the weakness of being founded upon electronics – both would be wiped out in a repeat of the 19th-century geomagnetic storm known as the "Carrington Event". It is an incomplete but more secure snapshot of data, with archiving intended at five-year intervals.[7]

Realising that people in the very far future may not understand what they see in the vault, a kind of "Rosetta Stone" has been devised to help decode the data, in the form of a guide to interpreting the archive. The guides are all readable by eye, after magnification, and written in English, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi.[7]


Clients, who pay for the storage of data, can send their data digitally or physically. The data can be retrieved at any time from the vault, but it is not a quick process, because the data is not connected to the internet. If data is requested, the relevant reel of film has to be manually retrieved,[1] then uploaded via a fibre optic connection to the mainland, to Piql's headquarters in Drammen;[4] the fastest possible retrieval time is 20–30 minutes, but it can take up to 24 hours with an active subscription and up to 72 hours without an active subscription.[1][11]


The archive stores a wide range of historical and cultural data.[7] Governments, researchers, religious institutions, media companies and others store some of their most significant records in the vault; Brazil and Norway have archived their constitutions and other important historical papers.[4]

The archive includes information about the biodiversity of Australia, and examples of culturally significant Australian works. It includes the Atlas of Living Australia, and machine learning models created by Geoscience Australia, which assist in understanding topics such as bushfires and climate change.[7]

The archive includes a digitised version of the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch for the National Museum of Norway, and a digitised version of Dante's master-work of Italian literature, The Divine Comedy for the Vatican Library.[12]

In March 2018, German science TV show Galileo deposited their first show, and made a documentary about it for ProSieben.[13][14]

In October 2020, the first deposit from a Nobel Prize laureate went to the Archive: 14 books of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Olga Tokarczuk, were placed on PiqlFilm, undertaken by the Piql Polska and funded by publisher Wydawnictwo Literackie.[15][16]

GitHub Archive Program[edit]

In November 2019, GitHub (which was acquired by Microsoft in 2018[6]) announced that all of its public open source code would be archived in a code vault at the Arctic World Archive,[17][18] as part of its GitHub Archive Program.[7]

In July 2020, the 21TB February site archive was stored at the AWA.[19][20] The data is stored on 186 film reels measuring 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) long, covered in code stored as matrix (2D) barcode (Boxing barcode), which store data very densely (each of the 200 platters of data carry 120 gigabytes[6]). The amount of code stored has been described thus: "If someone who types at about 60 words a minute sat down and tried to fill up all that space, it would take 111,300 years".[7] The first reel holds the code of both the Linux and Android operating systems, plus that of 6,000 other major open source applications.[6]

Further to the general guide to the vault, the "Tech Tree" details software development, programming languages and other information about computer programming.[7] The Guide and the Tech Tree are written in a collaborative process as a public Git repository.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Vincent, James (4 April 2017). "Keep your data safe from the apocalypse in an Arctic mineshaft". The Verge. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  2. ^ NRK (26 March 2017). "Dommedagshvelv åpner på Svalbard" (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Arctic World Archive - Piql". Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Look inside the doomsday vault that may hold the world's most important data". NBC News. 7 June 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d Lawlor, Paul (4 April 2017). "Arctic 'doomsday' vault seeks to protect world's most precious data". CNN. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Linder, Courtney (15 November 2019). "Github Code - Storing Code for the Apocalypse". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Byrne, Nate (12 August 2020). "Buried deep in the ice is the GitHub code vault". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b Kobie, Nicole (3 April 2017). "Norway's Doomsday vault will now store and protect the world's data". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Archived from the original on 8 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Arctic World Archive Puts Data on Ice for 1,000 Years". HowStuffWorks. 4 April 2017. Archived from the original on 2 April 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Diese Kohlemine soll das digitale Erbe der Menschheit schützen". 1E9 (in German). 9 August 2020. Retrieved 10 August 2020.
  11. ^ "FAQ - Arctic World Archive". arcticworldarchive.org. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Alles van waarde ligt straks in een oude mijnschacht op Spitsbergen". Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Galileo - Der Datenbunker Spitzbergen". 19 March 2018. Archived from the original on 18 April 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  14. ^ "German TV program on Piql watched by millions". Piql. 19 April 2018. Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  15. ^ "Nobel Prize laureate stores life's work in the Arctic World Archive". Arctic World Archive. 9 October 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Sabliński, Jędrzej (2 November 2020). "Pamięć absolutna". Polityka (in Polish). 45: 76–77.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  17. ^ "GitHub will store all of its public open source code in an Arctic vault". Engadget. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  18. ^ Vance, Ashley (13 November 2019). "Open Source Code Will Survive the Apocalypse in an Arctic Cave". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on 17 November 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  19. ^ "GitHub Has Stored Its Code in an Arctic Vault It Hopes Will Last 1,000 Years". Gizmodo. 17 July 2020. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  20. ^ "GitHub, the world's largest open-source software site, just had mounds of data stored in the permafrost chamber of an old coal mine deep in an Arctic mountain for 1,000 years". www.msn.com. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  21. ^ "github/archive-program: The GitHub Archive Program & Arctic Code Vault". GitHub. 15 October 2020.

External links[edit]