A video of GitHub's extraordinary deep-freeze archiving project has emerged — millions of projects were saved on 02/02/2020 and there's a good reason why that date was chosen

Arctic Code Vault
(Image credit: GitHub)

The idea of preserving Earth's most essential elements to keep them safe in the event of a catastrophe is not new - the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, for example, serves as a backup for over a million seeds to prevent their extinction. 

Not far from there, another crucial backup exists: the Arctic World Archive (AWA), a joint initiative between Norwegian state-owned mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK) and very-long-term digital preservation provider Piql AS.

The AWA is a collection of data-filled containers stored inside a sealed chamber within a decommissioned coal mine, about 250 to 300 meters underground. These containers resemble film reels, except they are filled with data not movies.


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A lucky date

On 02/02/2020, GitHub captured a snapshot of every active public repository and preserved that data in the Arctic Code Vault within the AWA.

This capture includes every repo with any commits between the announcement at GitHub Universe on November 13th 2019 and 02/02/2020; every repo with at least 1 star and any commits from the year before the snapshot. As well as all repos with at least 250 stars. (It also included gh-pages for those repositories.) 

GitHub's contribution to the vault consists of 186 film reels, written to 1,000-year hardened film. Each reel contains 65,000 frames, most of which are QR codes, totaling approximately 21TB of data. A human-readable index and guide found on every reel explains how to recover the contents.

Featured projects in the Arctic Code Vault include:

As to why the date of 02/02/2020 was chosen, there are a couple of possible reasons. For one it's a palindrome, meaning it's the same written forward or backward. Also, if you add up the numbers (0+2+0+2+2+0+2+0) you'll arrive at 8, which in numerology represents assertion, determination, and responsibility. It's also viewed as lucky in certain cultures.

The team behind the archive  project says “We plan to evaluate the program, and the state of the art of archival technology, every five years. Depending on the results of each evaluation, we may then decide to take another snapshot of GitHub’s public code and archive it in cold storage."

You can watch the Arctic Vault Video below.

There’s also a brand new video on TikTok showing GitHub's contribution in the vault.


♬ original sound - World Heritage on Svalbard

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Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams is a freelancer writing news for TechRadar Pro. He has been writing about computers, technology, and the web for 30 years. In that time he wrote for most of the UK’s PC magazines, and launched, edited and published a number of them too.