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Storing seeds for ten thousand years without human intervention is the goal of The EarthArk Project. If living seeds are kept very cold they can maintain their viability for tens of thousands of years. Many sites have been considered for EarthArk storage, and many rock-solid mountain tops have been identified where EarthArks can be precisely located far into the future. A cheaper option is to collect seeds in mini-EarthArks made of jars or small barrels and place them on local mountain tops. These could be placed in temperate and tropical mountain tops where seeds may last for centuries. The advantage of mini-EarthArks is they can be done by a single person at small personal expense, and they can be placed in ways that will remain totally hidden until they erode out of the soil of the mountain. That method prevents theft and intentional destruction by those seeking economic control of DNA. The advantage of the primary EarthArks located high in Antarctica is they are remote from intentional predation. They will be stored at very cold temperatures without any human intervention; and they can be secured so they can be found much later when the seeds are needed to replant otherwise extinct species.

The Argus Dome in Antarctica has temperatures thought to be the coldest on the surface of the Earth. Wikipedia – Dome A (Dome Argus) says, “Temperatures at Dome A fall below −80 °C (−112 °F) almost every winter, while in summer it rarely exceeds −10 °C (14 °F).” The highest point of the ice sheet (4,093 m (13,428 ft or 2.54 miles) above sea level) by GPS survey is at 80°22’S 77°21’E (-80.367 77.352). Measurements have shown that this huge dome of ice doesn’t flow like a glacier, but builds and compresses downward and flows slowly outward. As the center ice doesn’t move in geographical location, an EarthArk placed there would be discoverable thousands of years hence. The darker blue areas are where the ice flow is less than 1 meter per year and yellow is more than 100 meters per year.

Antarctica Ice Flow showing the Argus Rize

Antarctica Ice Flow showing the Argus Dome is between 80-82 S and 76-78 E. Click bigger

This area of Antarctica is very flat, so it would be easy to smooth an airfield for easy importation of materials. Ridge A with a valley located 89 miles southeast of Argus Dome is possibly even colder and thus better for an EarthArk; it is where the atmosphere descends smoothly into shallow valleys and will sit there quietly radiating even more heat into deep space. NASA video at Washington Post:

The coldest air on Earth

The cold air, in blue, drains from Dome A and Ridge A to form a cold pocket.

Perhaps a stadium-sized bowl could be scooped out to get even colder temperatures at a black-coated bottom. A radio telescope would work well there.

I made another overlaid composite map of Antarctica showing the ice flow. The white areas within dark blue are moving at less than one meter per year. Probably an EarthArk placed near the center of the Argus dome could be easily found in a thousand years.

18 white areas of slow moving ice shown in Antarctica

An Antarctica ice flow chart with non-moving areas shown in white. Altitude lines are in meters.

There are several other very slow moving ice areas nearer the South Pole besides Argus that are stable, but they are at a lower altitude and not as cold. The Argus Dome seems best as it has been tested and appears to be stable on a ten-thousand-year basis. I am hesitant to say precisely where the EarthArks should be located, because the local factors should be checked carefully. However, the EarthArks are designed to be transported to their locations, and they should be easy to move later when the need arises.

The EarthArks can save millions of species, but they must be in place to do it.