When people need secure storage for their valuables, they place things in a bank vault. When governments and large corporations need to keep things safe, they turn to these ultra-secure lockups.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard archipelago is 800 miles north of the Arctic Circle above Norway. The seed vault was built by the Norwegian government to help safeguard the world’s heritage of fauna. The entrance is a nondescript concrete block that opens into a deep passageway down beneath the permafrost. The genetic material of over 2,000 cultivars from 300 species of plants is stored in Svalbard, where the natural cold keeps them well preserved. The vault was built in 1984 as a backstop in the event of the apocalypse. Governments from around the world have donated plant varieties of different grains, beans, and other important dietary staples. In the event that nuclear catastrophe wipes out crops, the stock can theoretically be replenished from the seed bank.
Iron Mountain is a storage facility in Boyers, Pennsylvania. It houses the National Data Center, an ultra-secure setup of servers 200 feet underground in an abandoned limestone mine. It also houses 1.7 million square feet of individual secure storage units for people with important things that need to be kept safe and private. The United States government is the largest single tenant, but most of the clients are kept confidential. Film companies are known to store original reels of classic movies, and record companies have the master tapes of some of the greatest rock albums of all time. The facility is guarded by private armed security, and visitors have to pass three levels of clearance to get into its heart.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Remember Die Hard with a Vengeance? The plot centers around a group of international terrorists who run NYPD Detective John McClane and shop owner Zeus Carver around town solving puzzles to defuse bombs. It turns out that the bombs are a distraction from the real crime: stealing $140 billion in gold from the Federal Reserve. That gold repository exists, and the current value of the gold in there is actually closer to $500 billion. It holds almost 50 percent more gold than Fort Knox and is reputed to have more gold than any place in the world, though this cannot be verified because Swiss Banks do not report that information. While the Federal government does have significant amounts of bullion stashed within the secure storage facility, the vast majority of the gold is owned by foreign nations. It’s not hard to see why governments around the world trust the Federal Reserve Bank to keep significant portions of their national treasuries. The vault sits 80 feet below street level and is encased on all sides by three feet of concrete. A single elevator is the only way in and out, and it is heavily guarded by soldiers and sharpshooters who defend the nearly 7,000 tons of gold.
These facilities guard some of the most valuable and sensitive items on the planet. They are the definition of secure storage.