It’s hardly a secret at this point that there are enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill us all and destroy everything on the planet many, many times over. That was kinda the point of the whole “mutually assured destruction” theory. If someone launched a nuke, everyone would die. Since that would be crazy or stupid, we could be reasonably sure that no one would do anything that crazy… right?
Well, that’s how it all turned out, despite a few of our best attempts to launch a nuclear war anyway — in true American fashion. Nixon even wanted the Communists to think he might just be crazy enough to do it as a way to gain leverage in Vietnam, a strategy he called the “Madman Theory.”
So, being the daredevils we all are, humanity decided some things were important enough to save for all history, just in case we decided to send ourselves back to the Stone Age. Government and businesses wanted to ensure their most important possessions would be there for generations, so these things were just built to last — literally.
Entrance to the Seed Vault at dusk, highlighting its illuminated artwork.
About 800 miles from the North Pole is a Norwegian island that holds more than 1,750 different kinds of seeds from all around the world. It’s an effort to protect the Earth’s biodiversity from accidents, disasters, and — surprise — nuclear wars. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a joint effort on behalf of Norway’s government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. Its Arctic location makes it a perfect place to cold store some 4.5 million seeds, a genetic snapshot of the plants on Earth.
2. Family Genetic Research Records
Deep inside the Granite Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s an underground vault that houses 3.5 billion microfilm images of the world’s family genealogical history. The Mormon Church runs FamilySearch, a non-profit family historian organization. Since 1965, 200,000 members of the worldwide church have gathered records from all over the world. They’ve collected civil registration records, church records, and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources, such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.
3. World Wrestling Entertainment
The WWE owns the single largest library of professional wrestling ever assembled — and it’s not just its original programming. It owns shows performed by ECW, AWA, WCW, and a slew of smaller wrestling federations from around the country. The trove is stored in a massive, climate-controlled bunker that is constantly maintained — in the Iron Mountains of Upstate New York’s Catskills range.
4. Steam Trains
Despite the idea that the country would be totally destroyed in the event of a nuclear war with the United States, The Soviet Union wanted the ability to move around its massive territory. The problem was that nuclear weapons release an electromagnetic pulse upon detonation, destroying electronics within range of the pulse. For the USSR, the answer was easy, just use engines that don’t need electronics — steam power. Only 12 steam locomotives are still intact at the preserved base of the Strategic Steam Resource near Roslavl in Smolensk.
5. The American Economy
While it’s no longer housed at one site (which was then called the Culpeper Switch), the entire American economy was prepared for a nuclear war. A bunker in Culpeper, Va. housed enough cash to replenish the U.S. economy east of the Mississippi River — to the tune of some billion. It also housed a switch that transferred the Federal Reserve Bank’s EFT system and provided data backup for the bank.
That facility has been moved from its original location and spread across the country so you can still owe your student loans in the event of a catastrophe.
6. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence
The foundational documents of the United States aren’t just going to be left on their own in the event of a nuclear war (or, actually, a zombie apocalypse — the responses for each are the same). The National Archives has a security plan in place for the most important documents it houses. The Library of Congress’ Top Treasures Inventory was housed in a special vault during the Cold War to ensure their survival in case of a nuclear attack on Washington — on the National Archives site.
If there was time, however, it was said the documents would be airlifted to another continuity of government site, like the Culpeper Switch. The documents’ current security plan is classified.