This artist's rendering shows a bomb shelter design recommended by the U.S. Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization in 1959, during the height of the Cold War tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. A booklet issued by the office did its best to reassure citizens that while a massive nuclear attack probably would kill millions, "most of those beyond the range of blast and heat will survive, if they have adequate protection from fallout." NUCLEAR FAMILY Officials offered five different approved fallout shelter designs, including a rudimentary basement shelter that could be fashioned by skilled citizens using concrete blocks for as little as $150 to $200.
The government advised that all shelters needed entrances with at least one right-angle turn, which would reduce the inflow of radioactivity, and a ventilation system that would provide at least five cubic feet per minute of air for each person to breathe. Other essentials included a storage battery capable of providing enough electricity to furnish light for two weeks, and an outside radio antenna to receive government broadcasts.
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A tunnel dug deep under London to accommodate those sheltering from air raids, circa 1941.
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View of food, sanitation, and survival supplies issued by the U.S. defense department for stocking a 50 person public bomb fallout shelter during the Cold War, 1962.
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A group of girls drinking in the massive underground Marieberget bomb shelter in Vasteras, Sweden. The nuclear shelter, measuring 7,800 square metres, houses youth centres, a theatre, a gymnasium and garages and is in daily use by the city's inhabitants.
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Three British government employees test out a new gas and bomb-proof bunker in a London office building in 1937. Built as a prototype by the Carrier Engineering Company, this advanced shelter features an airtight door and closed air supply system much like a submarine. EARLY BUNKER COMFORT Recently declassified intelligence files reveal that such precautions were justified, because Nazi Germany was stockpiling large amounts of chemical weapons and testing mortar shells and aerosol weapons containing anthrax and other deadly biological agents.
In the late 1930s, with the increasingly belligerent Nazi regime on the rise, Londoners rushed to build defenses against the threat they saw ahead. As a Canadian newspaper correspondent reported in September 1938, construction crews labored day and night, building a vast labyrinth of underground shelters beneath the city to protect against "poison gas, high explosive bombs and other horrors of modern warfare."
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President John F. Kennedy's atomic bomb shelter and command post ''Kennedy Bunker'' built December 1961 to house the president in case of a nuclear attack while in residence on Palm Beach, Fla.
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Missile silo dweller Diana Peden leads prospective buyers on a tour of her home, which she and her husband Edward built in a decommissioned Atlas E intercontinental ballistic missile silo in Dover, Kansas after purchasing it for $40,000 in the 1980s. MISSILE SILO SHELTERS The Pedens remodeled the site to create a 6,500-square-foot (604 square meters) underground living space with high-ceilings and a hot tub. They enjoyed living in a renovated missile silo so much that they subsequently set up a real estate company, 20th Century Castles, to find and sell similar properties. But decommissioned silos are increasingly difficult to find, due to international treaty obligations that require governments to destroy them.
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Tobias Hollitzer, head of the association of the Citizens Committee Leipzig, opens the gate to the Stasi bunker in Machern, Germany, 07 September 2011. During the Cold War the bunker was used by the Ministry for State Security (Stasi) of Leipzig.
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The West Tunnel Blast Door, which weighs 25 tons and serves as an entrance to a former government relocation facility, also know as 'the bunker,' at Greenbrier Resort July 14, 2006 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
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Entrance to the Cheyenne mountain complex.
Image Credit: Tristan Walker, Partisan Pictures
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, created deep within the Arctic landscape on the remote island of Spitsbergen, was established to store duplicates of seeds from food crops around the globe so that those plant species can be reestablished in the event of a global catastrophe. DOOMSDAY SEED BANK According to the project's website, "the loss of biological diversity is currently one of the greatest challenges facing the environment and sustainable development." The vault actually consists of three chambers, each with the capacity to store 1.5 million seed samples. Though the facility — and the island — are owned by Norway, the seeds themselves are the property of other countries and institutions that deposited them for safekeeping.
By late 2012, more than 750,000 seed samples had been stored at the site, which is opened three to four times a year. A Brazilian scientific organization sent hundreds of carefully selected seed samples of maize (corn) and rice, which represent most of the genetic variations with those plant species.
Image Credit: Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault