Bringing to mind Scrooge McDuck’s cash hoard, or cackling James Bond villains, vaults are highly secure, cavernous, and used to store vast quantities of something.
Here are 5 vaults from around the world that seem to be taken right out of fiction.
1. The New York Federal Reserve Gold Vault
Photo courtesy of the New York Federal Reserve via its website.
Holding the world’s largest quantity of monetary gold, this vault is located 80 feet below street level in downtown Manhattan, according to the Fed website.
To protect the approximately 530,000 gold bars – weighing 6,700 tons – stored there, the vault’s only entrance is guarded by a 90-ton steel cylinder, set on a 140-ton frame made from steel and concrete.
When the door is sealed, the entrance is both airtight and watertight, and four steel rods are inserted into the cylinder, locking the door until the next business day through a time clock.
Outside of the vault, security cameras and motion sensor remain on 24-hour watch, along with the armed Federal Reserve police.
2. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Photo courtesy of Dag Terje Filip Endresen via Flickr.
Also dubbed the “Doomsday Vault,” this facility stores more than 770,000 different seed samples from around the world, according to the Norwegian government. It’s located on Svalbard, an island north of Norway, only 600 miles (1,000 km) from the North Pole.
Buried more than 400 feet (120 m) into a mountain, the facility is designed to keep the seeds at zero degrees Fahrenheit. Even if the tiny, 10 kilowatt compressor fails to produce energy, the seeds will remain frozen for over 200 years, factoring in worst-case-scenario global warming.
Some seeds will last even longer, like barley, which will last for 2,000 years, or sorghum, which can last 20,000 years.
The climate around the vault (which hosts among other things a population of approximately 3,000 polar bears) provides a natural security mechanism. However, potential intruders would also have to pass through four heavy steel doors, the last two of which are air-locked. The site is also ringed by motion detectors.
3. The KFC Vault
Photo of KFC corporate headquarters courtesy of Eli Hodapp via Flickr.
Although not exactly as important as gold reserves or the world’s biodiversity, KFC’s secret recipe for fried chicken is nevertheless incredibly important to the company.
That’s why it recently renovated the storage facility in its Louisville, K.Y. headquarters to include an electronic safe, protected in a concrete-block vault, as reported by the Huffington Post.
The vault is guarded by motion detectors and security cameras monitored by guards.
4. The Antwerp Diamond Vault
Photo of the Antwerp Diamond Center’s entrance by Thorsten1997 via Wikipedia Commons.
Located in the heart of the world’s diamond industry in Antwerp, Belgium, this high-tech, high-security vault was thought to be one of the most secure places in the world – until it was robbed of over $100 millions worth of diamonds in a near-flawless heist in 2003, detailed in a Wired magazine feature.
To get to the vault, the thieves had to bypass 24-hour video surveillance all around the facility, go down two floors, and a 3-ton steel door protected by a combination lock, a seismic detector and a magnetic field alarm.
Past the door, which also required a foot-long, almost-non-duplicable key, and a keypad to turn off sensors, the vault is video-monitored by guards and protected by light, heat, and motion detectors.
Investigators were baffled by the heist, and security has since been boosted in the district, according to diamondvues.com
5. The Granite Mountain Records Vault
Photo courtesy of Alexander Rose via The Long Now Foundation.
The Church of the Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church, has genealogical and historical records covering the equivalent of three million three-hundred-page books stored away for posterity. And where better to store in than in a vault 700 feet (200 m) into a mountain?
Granite Mountain Records Vault, located near Salt Lake City in Utah, was built in the ‘60s to provide a safe place to store the Church’s records, which include land grants, deeds, probate records, marriage records, cemetery records, parish registers in addition to family records.
The information covers 35 billion microfilm images, over 2.4 million rolls of film, according to the Salt Lake City paper Deseret News.
In addition to being deep inside the mountain, the vault’s three access doors are protected by two nine-ton and one 14-ton door, keeping the records safe from floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and, as the LDS website states, “violences of earth and man.”