Ever since the Egyptians built the pyramids thousands of years ago, the human race has been searching for and creating ways to safeguard their treasures from theft and harm. Be it through building castles, forts and impenetrable vaults, or hiding things in the sea, people are willing to go to greater lengths to ensure that their secrets remain secret. From huge underground ice faults that contain the seeds of life in case of a natural disaster to the sprawling the Vatican archives that hold the deepest and darkest secrets of religion, we are going to look at the most heavily protected places in the world.
Here are the top 10 most heavily guarded places on earth.
- 1. White House
- 2. Area 51
- 3. The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX Florence Prison)
- 4. Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
- 5. The United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox)
- 6. Federal Reserve Bank of New York
- 7. Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Doomsday Seed Vault)
- 8. RAF Menwith Hill
- 9. Vatican Apostolic Archive
- 10. Bold Lane Car Park
1. White House
Washington D.C., United States
The president of the United States is not only considered to be the most powerful person in the world but also one of the most heavily protected, which as a leader of the free world is not really a surprise. The White House lies at the centre of a highly restricted, 15-mile flight restricted zone. It’s so well protected that it may as well be a fortress with 147 bulletproof windows capable of resisting multiple direct impacts from semi-automatic weapons, 1,300 Secret Service agents, a constantly present SWAT team on the roof and a president Emergency Operations Center buried six stories.
A number of surface-to-air missile launchers are also positioned across the city, ready to intercept any aircraft that do not comply with direction from the US Air Force. On the building itself, roof-mounted radar closely monitors the area around the White House. Additionally, the perimeter of the White House is monitored by an array of infrared cameras able to detect the slightest temperature change and alert security to any potential threats.
2. Area 51
Nevada, United States
This top-secret Air Force place in New Mexico is guarded so well that no one can even come close to the base without express permission, and even flying over it is strictly forbidden. What exactly is contained inside Area 51 is a secret to the public, but there is definitely must be something pretty weird or cool going on there. Why else would it be so well guarded? Many people claim Area 51 contains alien or UFO artifacts and relics from throughout time.
Others believe the airbase hides top-secret government experiments. Whether it’s cutting edge weapons research, black projects or unidentified flying objects that occupy the region, we’ll never know owing to the blanket security coverage which shields the area. At first glance it isn’t much, a chain-link fence have boom gates, some orange poles to demarcate the area and many ‘no trespassing’ signs which also prohibit photography. But the real security measures lie within the military area which is a no-fly zone for almost all aircraft including those from the nearby Air Force bases.
Sensors are placed all around the perimeter of the base and it is believed that these are sensitive enough to tell the difference between humans and animals. There is also constant patrolling by pairs of men and SUVs, whose role is to act as observers and deterrence and who are sometimes reinforced by helicopters flying low. There are of course security cameras constantly scanning and the Air Force has not made the task of observing the base any easier by withdrawing the surrounding lines from public use especially those with elevated vantage points.
3. The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX Florence Prison)
Colorado, United States
ADX Florence Prison houses the baddest of the bad. These criminals are considered the most dangerous cons in the US and have earned the prison the nickname of Alcatraz of the Rockies. One former ADX warden described it as a cleaner version of hell. This prison is designed to house those inmates of the federal prison system who are deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control.
The soundproof cells and furniture are made almost entirely of poured concrete and the four foot by four inch windows only allow views of the roof and the sky to prevent inmates from finding their specific location within the premises. The compound is monitored through thousands of motion detectors and cameras.
There are 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors that can all close at an instant if the panic alarm is sounded. The perimeter is surrounded by pressure pads in a 12-foot high razor wire fence with heavily armed officers and attack dogs patrolling the area. The prison is currently home to some of America’s most heinous criminals. The security measures aim not just to keep convicts within the prison but also outsiders out.
4. Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Korean Demilitarized Zone or otherwise known as the DMZ, is a strip of land dividing North Korea and South Korea. It is one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world stretching 160 miles in length from the Sea of Japan in the East to the Yellow Sea in the West and 2.5 miles in width. The area is fortified on both sides by chain-link barbed wire, razor wire and electric fences. Tens of thousands of landmines and anti-tank mines are placed within in.
The area is patrolled by hundreds of thousands of soldiers armed with sophisticated tanks and artillery. In addition, there are watchtowers and listening posts every few kilometers and there are electronic surveillance systems in place. These physical measures combined with the political standoff between North Korea and South Korea make ‘no trespassing’ signs unnecessary. The absence of human contact has led to the creation of a nature reserve with abundant flora and fauna including several endangered animals and plant species.
5. The United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox)
Kentucky, United States
Fort Knox is home to the U.S. bullion depository. It only stores thousands of tons of gold, but it is said to house important historical documents as well such as the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta. It has nearly 30,000 troops and 300 tanks, armed personnel carriers, attack helicopters and artillery available for its protection. As if this were not enough the building itself is protected by four layers of barriers, motion sensors and electronic surveillance.
The walls are made of four foot thick granite lined with cement, steel and fireproof material. The foundation is of cement in 10-foot thick granite and the sealed windows are blast proof, fireproof and darkened. The front door weighs 22 tons and can only be operated when several members of the staff enter their combinations changed daily. The vaults inside are 27 inches thick and made of steel and concrete by a company whose vault design reportedly withstood the atomic attack of Hiroshima.
6. Federal Reserve Bank of New York
New York, United States
It is said that roughly 25 percent of the world’s gold is stored here. With that much money to protect, no wonder it is extremely well guarded. The gold vault at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is located at the basement of a building 80 feet below street level and 50 feet below sea level. A comprehensive multi-layered security system protects the vault. The most important piece of which is the 90-ton steel cylinder that is placed that the only entrance.
It is set within a 140-ton steel and concrete frame that creates an airtight and watertight seal when closed. Each compartment within the vault is secured by a padlock, two combination locks and a seal by the auditor. Further security is provided by the time locks, the massive steel reinforced concrete walls, the motion sensors, as well as the constantly monitored surveillance cameras. In addition to these special measures, the vault is protected by the building security system, as well as the armed Federal Reserve Police Force.
7. Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Doomsday Seed Vault)
This seed vault is designed to store a wide assortment of seeds in an effort to preserve crop diversity and assure humans will have a source of food no matter what earthly disaster occurs. It was with the mission of creating a safety net to protect traditional plants gene banks from accidental loss of diversity that the Doomsday Seed Vault was created in 2008. The storage compound is located at Spitsbergen, one of the most remote places on the planet that humans can still access.
Spitsbergen is a large barren rock island in the Arctic Circle, less than a thousand miles from the North Pole and inhabited mainly by polar bears, and the vault is situated inside an old copper mine. The area is geologically stable and covered with permafrost, ideal for the long-term storage of seeds. As if the isolated landscape wasn’t enough, the seed safe is defended with blast-proof doors motion sensors, airlocks and 1 meter thick steel reinforced concrete walls.
A 400-foot long tunnel with airlocks at both ends leads to three refrigerated chambers, each 90 feet long, 30 feet wide and 16 feet high. The facility is able to store up to 4.5 million different varieties of seeds making this vault home to the most diverse collection of crops anywhere in the world. The seeds are packaged in three ply foil packets and heat sealed to exclude moisture.
The concave tunnel head is designed to deflect the force of a missile strike and there are five levels of locked doors between the entrance and the seeds. Together with a -18 degrees centigrade temperature maintained in the vault, ensure that the structure and the seeds within will remain for thousands of years.
8. RAF Menwith Hill
RAF Menwith Hill was used during the Cold War as a base dedicated to monitoring Soviet communications however now the base is more closely allied with the NSA’s global surveillance network. It has long been known as the largest electronic monitoring station on the planet, as it also serves as a ground station for a great number of satellites belonging to the US National Reconnaissance Office. On top of that, RAF Menwith Hill is also referred to as one of the most secretive places in Europe and beyond.
Thanks to its fascinating and unusual structures providing intelligence and communication support, RAF Menwith Hill became quite an important place where lots of data is held. Well, it sure explains why it’s off-limits to the public as well. The RAF Menwith Hill is a lot like the British equivalent of Las Vegas, whatever happens there stays there. But unlike Las Vegas there’s a whole bunch of people desperate to know exactly what is going on within this mysterious RAF base.
People have been trying their best in vain to get answer about what happens in the facility. Nobody actually knows what goes on inside Menwith Hill or what it’s used for. Human rights groups and politicians have demanded transparency but the British government continues to decline the question claiming that national security measures cannot be discussed in anyway.
9. Vatican Apostolic Archive
Vatican Apostolic Archive, formerly known as Vatican Secret Archive, is off-limits to the public; and, from the look of things, there’s no indication that things would change in the future. Despite the church’s attempt at openness critics say the contents aren’t accessible enough. Only academics and highly qualified clergy have access to the mysterious Vatican Apostolic Archive.
But even the few lucky ones with granted entry inside the heavily guarded facility cannot enjoy the view of the rarest items without advanced approval. Since the facility has been virtually cut off from civilization, skeptics have gathered from around the world to mull over possible theories that could explain the secrecy; however, nobody has ever managed to unveil the century-long enigma floating around the place.
Theories range from the cavern hiding gospels that contradict the Bible to it housing the earliest known collection of pornography and even holding plans that may lead to world domination and control. Oddly enough there’s even an urban legend floating around in some Mormon circles that the Vatican vaults have some missing books of the Bible which verify that the Mormon religion is actually true.
10. Bold Lane Car Park
This car park or parking garage in Derbyshire England is one of the safest places in the world. This multi-story parking lot used to be one of the most notorious spots in Derby with a reputation for harboring anti-social behaviour. In 1997 the City Council entered into a partnership with Park Safe, which put into place a series of upgrades totally changing the aura of the space. Customers who park their cars here are issued a bar-coded ticket that is specifically linked to one particular parking bay.
Each bay has both horizontal and vertical motion sensors that remain activated until the customer returns and paces parking ticket. Access into the building is only possible using the bar coded parking ticket and an immediate lockdown of all exits is triggered in the event that a motion sensor alarm goes off. In addition control room operators use a system of 190 CCTV cameras and electronic maps to monitor all pedestrian movement in the carpark.