My main protagonist is going to fast-forward himself in time by 1000 years. He will simply reappear in the same place (marked by a small beacon), the process being instant for him (no hibernation etc). This is the only "magical" technology in the universe, known only by the protagonist.

However, he wants to prepare for a potential scenario where the Earth is rendered uninhabitable for whatever reason, and perform the time travel in a well-prepared, isolated place. He would like to stockpile any and all items required for him to survive, as he investigates the reality outside, or at the very worst, to allow him to live the rest of his natural life in the isolated area.

He will have access to a reasonable amount of funding (several millions of dollars) to let him buy a concrete bunker in a safe (at least in his time), remote area. However, he won't have access to unlimited resources like millions of scientists and engineers, or any technology not available in 2016.

After watching several scientific documents about experiments with food decay (performed by the brilliant researched by the name of Ashens), he knows (and so do I) that canned food or hermetically sealed chocolate simply won't do even for 50 let alone 1000 years.

Any suggestions?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Canned food will do for fifty years -- people occasionally discover and eat hundred-year-old cans. I agree that a thousand years would be pushing it. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Sep 4 '16 at 9:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Dried food will be OK in a thousand years. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 4 '16 at 9:45
  • 24
    $\begingroup$ In 1000 years, his "isolated area" might become the sewers of a major city, go underwater due to earthquakes, become the swamp nesting ground of major predators like crocodiles and snakes, or anything in between. With this level of uncertainty, you can't rely on your storage system. The major advantage of the Egyptians storing honey and grain in the pyramids was that the storers themselves would not be depending on those for survival ;-) $\endgroup$ – nzaman Sep 4 '16 at 10:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @nzaman: fair point, but actually looking for a proper area is one of the major plotlines of the story. You surely cannot prevent all possible disasters, but: You can make an underground bunker (as a safeguard against basic nature threats) in a seismically safe area (which should not change in the timeframe of 1000 years), somewhere in northern Canada/Siberia, very scarcely populated and not very interesting for tourists etc. If the construction is kept off the books, and not immediately detected by the gov (eg. as a military threat) I don't think that knowledge of such place would persist. $\endgroup$ – Michael Sep 4 '16 at 11:06
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ It may be beyond your protagonists means, however, an RTG powered by Americium-241 would still be running at ~20% of its initial output after 1,000 years. Of course, you'd want it located away from your other supplies to prevent contamination (and it's more likely to be detected) but probably worth the effort. Having a reliable enrgy source could make a significant difference to all aspects of survival. I'd also make sure I had a tool shop and lots material to use, etc... $\endgroup$ – Basic Sep 4 '16 at 17:15

13 Answers 13


Simplest fix - you have a time machine. Why bother letting your supplies degrade or get stolen over the 1000 years, when you can either (a) build a larger machine and take them with you, or (b) send them 1000 years forward, a batch at a time, before you go - so everything's fresh when you arrive. If that's not practical if the destination physical location is fixed, then (c) arrange for your loyal henchman or automated conveyor system to send them at prearranged intervals after you arrive (gives you time to leave the target, watch for supplies arriving, and then nip in and move them before the next batch is due).

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This would be the best idea, but in this story we don't have a time machine per se, it's more of a beacon that will fast-forward a single person to the future. $\endgroup$ – Michael Sep 4 '16 at 15:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ And it's one-use only, presumably. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Sep 4 '16 at 16:34
  • 24
    $\begingroup$ You will.need some handwavium to answer "why didn't the idiot jump with packets of seeds in his pockets?". Especially if he does not arrive in the future as naked as the day he was born. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Sep 4 '16 at 17:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I mean, maybe he stepped in the beacon by accident, à la futurama $\endgroup$ – Julius Sep 5 '16 at 3:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Julius unfortunately he knows what's coming and is preparing for it, so stepping in accidentally is really unlikely, or is so likely that it's almost done on purpose, and we're ready for it anyway. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Sep 6 '16 at 13:57

Your bunker will have to be underground, if you want to ensure that it stays untouched for a thousand years.
That being the case, keep the access on the top part, fill the inside with 90% CO2 before sealing, and have a layer of a drying agent like calcium chloride next to every outer wall.
You should be able to store honey, salt, oil and grains and nuts without issue. Preserved meat/fish and fruit probably won't last (in an edible form), powdered stuff in sealed containers should last indefinitely. It would be best to have as many varieties of seeds as possible, stored in airtight containers, in case these have become extinct. These will be an excellent means of trade or basis for setting up agriculture for the traveller's own subsistence. Keep a water purification system (but not water) and an energy source (e.g., a diesel generator with sufficient fuel at hand) ready for use in the bunker. Once sealed, the calcium chloride will dry out the air inside, while the CO2 will prevent fermentation or saprophyte growth, as these, too, expel CO2 while respiring. Archaea should not be a factor as long as there is no water available. Avoid keeping a light source in the bunker, in case an unnoticed seed on the ground starts to germinate; the absence of water is an added backup to prevent this. Animals, like rats and cockroaches will be killed off by the high levels of CO2, thus will bot damage your supplies.
The above assumes the bunker is airtight. Otherwise, water entering will destroy everything, eventually. Assuming, of course, a concrete bunker can survive a thousand years.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Sep 5 '16 at 22:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Diesel fuel will not last that long. "Regular" storage is suggested to be between 6 months and a year. With ideal conditions, 5 years is about the maximum range that you need to have complete turnover of the entire tank. Once a decade the tank should really be drained and cleaned. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Sep 6 '16 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson: Please see the chat for the discussion on this issue $\endgroup$ – nzaman Sep 6 '16 at 18:51

Radiation sterilizing

No really, irradiation is one of the most effective ways of preventing food from spoiling.

The kind of foods he should do this with is foods that do not spoil easy. Sugars, flours, protein powders, mineral and vitamin supplements. The "simpler" the food the better. The more chemically complex a food is, the more likely it is to spoil due to oxidation and other natural processes.

He should also add candies and other such treats, because that kind of food gets boring very quickly. He needs something to keep his spirits up. And speaking of spirits... yeah, a little alcohol probably will not be a bad idea.

Also basic medical supplies would probably be a good... penicillins and other antibiotics for instance, and plain old painkillers like ACAs (like Asprin) and paracetamols.

The supplies should be hermetically sealed, preferably in an inert atmosphere — like nitrogen or noble gasses — before being irradiated.

He should also take care to store these things in fairly small containers, because if there is a breach, the less volume gets spoiled. He might also want to create several caches so that if one is discovered and raided he does not lose his whole supply.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ And speaking of spirits... yeah, a little alcohol probably will not be a bad idea. Yeah, 1,000 year old scotch sounds like something worth doing. $\endgroup$ – HopelessN00b Sep 6 '16 at 17:21


The Siberian Tundra is a vast, largely undisturbed frozen wasteland.

It is a cold and dry climate, with the ground solid with permafrost.

It is possible to store food in these conditions for multiple thousands of years. Proof can be found in the mammoth carcasses that occasionally thaw out and are sufficiently fresh that scavenging animals have been known to eat them with no ill effects (I don't believe any humans have tried, but their dogs certainly have).

These carcasses are in this condition despite there being no active attempt to preserve them -- nature did it on its own.

Your time traveller should take advantage of this and bury his supplies in the Siberian wilderness. With proper choice of foodstuffs and good preparation, his supplies should easily last 1000 years.

Possible negatives:

  • Global warming. The mammoth carcasses I mentioned earlier are showing up now because the permafrost is melting. It is possible that global warming will have completely changed the Siberian climate in 1000 years, in which case his frozen supplied may be thawed out and ruined long before he arrives. He will need to assess this and pick a location (far enough North) to avoid this.

  • Discovery. Sure it's remote, but Siberia is not entirely uninhabited. If the population increases over time, then there's a chance his stash may be found. I guess this is a danger for him no matter where he puts it though.

My advice for the traveller would be to forget about doing one massive thousand year jump. Instead, try jumping in hundred year increments. Spend a week or so in each time frame re-assessing the situation and re-stocking your cache before doing the next jump. It may take him a couple of months to get to his 1000 year target, but that really isn't very much time to spend given the scope of how far he's actually going. Doing it in small jumps will have a number of benefits for him:

  • He will be able to see how the world and society is changing over time, so he will be less of an outsider when he arrives.
  • He will have an opportunity to change his strategy mid-way through. For example, if a new settlement appears close to his beacon, he might chose to move the beacon further away before the settlement grows and becomes too close.
  • $\begingroup$ If we go boom, then presumably no humans will be around, and it will be hard to get to such violent environment just by yourself, no cars, no helis, no anything. $\endgroup$ – MatthewRock Sep 6 '16 at 14:02

Food - There are very few foods that will last long enough. 1) Processed Honey - Lasts forever if correctly stored. Good source of sugar and can be used as a mild antiseptic. Also relatively cheap.

2) Pemmican - This is a type of stored meat invented by American Indians. Lean meat, usually game like buffalo or elk, is dried over an open fire then made into cakes with dried berries and fat. Good source of energy, protein and one of your five a day. They will also last forever.

3) Hard liquor - Vodka or spirits if stores out of the sun will last. They will get less alcoholy as time goes on. These drinks will be good for drinking when you have no water and can clean wounds and sterilise stuff.

4) Powdered milk - Lasts forever. Can be used in cooking and baking as well as for drinking.

5) Water supply - Try and get somewhere near the top of a major river. This should reduce the risk of the water supply getting diverted or polluted.

Money - Obviously your money might be worthless in 1000 years time. I would suggest bringing a load of objects like radios or books to sell to collectors of historical stuff.

Furniture - Use metal furniture as this will last better. Also seal off the bunker as much as possible to avoid the metal rusting as much as possible.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is this nonsense with honey? How about white sugar? I however like the idea of drinking vodka when there's no water. Good to have some last fun when you have to go anyway. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 4 '16 at 14:45
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Karl Sugar does keep but honey is better as it is more nutritious and slightly antiseptic. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Sep 4 '16 at 14:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I've seen sealed glasses of honey spring to life in my cupboard. Turned to mead and blew off the lid. It's pure chance if one survives. Antiseptic? Pft. And for a thousand years of storage, i'd go with micronutrients in pills. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 4 '16 at 14:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon, sources on these? Just because some of these things occasionally survive 1000 years doesn't mean they will with any reliability. Preserved human corpses have survived for a thousand years, maybe that means humans are imperishable and should be used as the ultimate food source. $\endgroup$ – Salmoncrusher Sep 4 '16 at 15:31
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Has anyone else here read that Asimov short story where two thieves steal gold and travel to the future to hide, only to find that in the future gold can be mass-produced and is no longer valuable? I feel like something like that could happen with gold. HIstorical artifacts would be better. $\endgroup$ – Tony Sep 4 '16 at 23:45

Mushrooms? Ensure a steady trickle spring flow that is not going to erode your bunker and let the mushrooms grow. You could even grow cave fish. Set up your own biome basically. Extra points if you can engineer bioluminescence.

  • $\begingroup$ Mushrooms and fish need their own food ... $\endgroup$ – fredsbend Sep 5 '16 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you would need to set up a biome, or enhance an existing underground biome. $\endgroup$ – tomdemuyt Sep 6 '16 at 11:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @tomdemuyt that is impossible with current levels of technology. Every attempt to set up a self-supporting ecosystem has failed. $\endgroup$ – dbanet Sep 6 '16 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @dbanet Do you have sources for that? If one can have of these go strong for 15 years, then humans should be able to set something up far more robust ? eco-sphere.com $\endgroup$ – tomdemuyt Sep 6 '16 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ @tomdemuyt ok, I was wrong, and apparently some small closed ecosystems are indeed attained, however it isn't even clear for me if shrimps die and reproduce in EcoSphere. Biology of ecosystems as a whole is very poorly understood now, and larger experiments had been conducted and were unsuccessful. If you help me find sources I will be grateful. $\endgroup$ – dbanet Sep 6 '16 at 15:10

The best known preservative is vacuum combined with cold. While it is not overly likely with year 2000 era tech, a bunker on the moon would likely be your best bet.

Protect it from radiation, leave your water in the form of ice blocks or sheets, use foods that will adapt well to freezing and being stored in thin sheets, store sufficient amounts of atmosphere and CO2 scrubbers, and you'll need a method or location for observation, possibly a suit, and a ship and fuel to get back to the planetary surface.

Might want to use fuel that can be broken out into requisite (freeze-able) parts for later recombination, or tolerates freezing itself. Just don't mistake it and try to drink it later. A source of power and heat production should finish it off.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ 20 years later... A rich nutter made a stockpile of food on the moon and fell down a crater. We can reduce the cost of a moon base if we use some of his food, fuel etc. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson Sep 4 '16 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest refrigeration as your best bet. Moon base seems a bit extreme, but I like the idea's vector if not its magnitude. :-) $\endgroup$ – SRM Sep 4 '16 at 22:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, it's rather technically challenging to produce and maintain a vacuum and cold of the same degree as outer space, on a planet. Especially for the requested duration. Much easier to start with a natural environment and go from there. Cheaper too. $\endgroup$ – nijineko Sep 4 '16 at 23:01

I'd be very hesitant to stake my life on claims that a recently-invented preservation technique will keep food edible and nutritious for 1000 years. How do they know? How are they measuring the rate of decay? How reliably can this be extrapolated into the future? Maybe your measurements are not precise enough. Maybe decay starts out slow and then accelerates. Etc.

When CDs were first invented, studies supposedly proved that they would last for 100 years or more. In practice plenty of CDs have failed within a few years. Or: One of the big selling points of compact fluorescent lights is that they last for 5 years or more. In practice, I bought a new house 6 years ago and put CFLs in most of the fixtures, umm, about 25 of them. Only 2 of those are still working. I haven't kept records to calculate the average life span, but no way has it been 5 years.

So what food has actually been preserved for 1000 years, or some appreciable fraction of that? Several other posters have mentioned honey in Egyptian tombs. Sugar and vinegar can also last for centuries. Canned goods can last for decades. Dehydrated foods, too. But I think that's about the limit. (Irradiated food lasts for at least decades. Irradiation has only existed for a few decades so it's hard to say just how long it will last.)

There's also the question of how you'd build the bunker. For all you know, an area that is remote and isolated today might be the middle of a major city 1000 years from now. Lots of cities today are in places that were wilderness in AD 1016.

And could you build a bunker that would survive intact for 1000 years? Yes, there are buildings standing today that are 1000 years old. But most of them have had people working to maintain them. Places left on their own tend to collapse into ruin.

If the hero can't bring supplies with him, or send them ahead ... it's a tough problem.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ CD-R(ecordable) fail after a few years, not factory-pressed CDs. High quality CFLs do last practically forever. Not that crappy China-made (sorry, it's not China's fault we're too cheap to ask for quality) stuff, right. But your lighting bill is typically in the plus after only one year anyway, compared to old-school light bulbs. Anyway, with proper engineering, there shouldn't be a problem. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 5 '16 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl I've seen plenty of cheap DVDs that didn't last a year. Not recordables, simply poor lamination of the layers. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Sep 6 '16 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl My point was not to debate the value of CDs or CFLs, but to say that predictions of longevity are often questionable. But: Have you performed experiments on the lifespan of CFLs, or are you just taking the manufacturer's word for it? I understand that the official ratings are based on a cycle of 3 hours on, 20 minutes off, and, they boast, longer cycles extend the life, That implies that shorter cycles reduce the life. I rarely leave lights on for 3 hours. Lights in a closet are on for a few seconds. ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Sep 6 '16 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ ... Lights in the kitchen are on for an hour or two while I cook dinner. Etc. I generally leave the lights on in the living room from when I get off work until I go to bed, like 6 hours. And those are the ones that have lasted the longest. I also have two 5W bulbs I use as night lights that are on 24/7, and I've only had to change those once each in 6 years. Also, I understand bulbs are rated based on pointing upward, and have shorter life if they point down because then heat rises into the ballast. My ceiling fan lights point down, and those have all had short lifespans. Etc. $\endgroup$ – Jay Sep 6 '16 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay The electronics in consumer CFLs are crappy, and they die when they're switched off and on too often, and when they're too warm (10°C difference typically halves the lifespan. Old chemisty rule of thumb.). DVDs? Yes, the design is much more sensitive to bad quality control and subsequent non-ideal storage. $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 9 '16 at 12:53

Your time jumper should store seeds, or plant fruit trees around their bunker. They will need to grow crops to live, unless they are able to forage food from the post-apocalyptic environment.

Sugar or sealed, sterilised honey are pretty stable and can give them the calories they need to live for a little while, but not all the vitamins they need in the long term to live a full life.

Canned food has zero vitamin C. Dried food exposed to oxygen loses its vitamin C over time, if it wasn't already baked out in the drying process. Vitamin pills will lose some of their vitamins over time. After a thousand years I'd be surprised if there's any vitamin C left in anything they can store. In general, they can't expect preserved food to give them all the nutrients they need. If they want to not die of scurvy in the first year or two, they will have to occasionally eat a non-preserved fruit, or vegetable or animal liver (but don't eat the liver of any arctic carnivore... you could die).


(viable) honey was not found in the pyramids, this is a fallacy. I have searched and not found any proof of this. In fact, there are several locations where there is possible evidence of liquid honey and honey in the comb having been left, although this is surmised from traces. The detail of the pyramid honey is erroneous and is first found in a book (I don’t have details with me ATM). I have researched this as I have an interest as a bee keeper, as this “fact” is often bought up. Even in sealed containers honey will break down.

How about a 3D printer using base chemicals? Still a bit fanciful, although the elemental parts ought not decay in that time.

It would seem that your best option would be a deep freeze – permafrost, glacial ice etc. This may work when we look at the preservation of mammoth, and add in modern preparation of the stores prior to freezing.


Enclosure(s) should be fabricated from stainless steel and welded shut. This will easily last 100,000 years. Air should be removed with a vacuum pump and replaced with Argon or Helium as these are inert.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Have you seen what happens to stainless steel when it is in contact with sea water for three months? Or have you ever found stainless tableware that was lost in the garden for a few years? Electrolytic corrosion? $\endgroup$ – Karl Sep 5 '16 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ Did you see what happened to the '57 Plymouth left in a concrete bunker until 2007? There are many alloys classified as stainless steel. I'm not sure flatware alloys would be appropriate, nor am I sure which alloy would. Concrete, however, practically guarantees failure, not because of one poorly designed time capsule but because there is no way to prevent moisture infiltration through such a porous material under any even semi-realistic scenarios. The granite blocks from which the Great Pyramid was constructed seem to have withstood the test of time. Build one of those... $\endgroup$ – RonaldO Sep 15 '16 at 2:22

As the earth is constantly moving, changing orbit etc. I am lead to the assumption that, whether or not the beacon is in the same place as he started, he will always re-appear at the beacon.

Therefore, our protagonist scopes out a livable planet, with oxygen, earth like environment, water etc. this would ensure that he as he re-materializes, he is not crushed by something already present at the position

he spends his money on three things:

One: prepares a large canister with the beacon attached, with propulsion systems attached. the propulsion systems would only need to be course correcting etc, and very minor thrust, as over the course of 1000 years the vessel will easily arrive at said planet. the cold and vacuum of space also means that any food kept within will last better.

two: he fills said with enough honey to last him a few weeks (honey lasts forever) . and some tools

three: pays nasa/whatever space program to launch his 'vessel' towards said planet. if it is to expensive to launch it himself; it only takes $250,000 or so to 'book' a flight to space. he could simply take the vessel with him and launch it easily from space himself, thus removing the need for a vessel able to leave the atmosphere

four: wears a suit of bees and enough bee queens to start a functioning colony

beams forward 1000 years and is now on his own planet, safe and sound. if he is lucky, human colonization has already reached said plane, and he can easily return to earth. It can also be assumed that, as an artifact of 'space' found on the planet and was there before humans arrived it will be kept somewhere roomy, like a museum or some 'area 51' type place.

If humans haven't arrived, he was prepared to live through an apocalypse anyway and no big deal. he now starts a bee colony on his new planet, builds a house and, if there is animal and plant life, can hunt said creatures for more diversity of food.

if there is 'intelligent' alien life, (which, assuming wasn't there before because he had checked the planet, so it is relatively new) he can easily become their god because he has advanced technology.

Tl;Dr: Honey lasts forever (has to be the correct type). he can keep stockpiles of honey in his bunker if he doesn't feel like leaving earth; or keep it in a small shuttle above earth if he wants to easily return if he is worried he will be crushed by materializing in a wall.



Real estate is key here, as many things happen in 1,000 years. The place I'd suggest is in space. If apocalyptic events happen, The 'Traveler' may not be able to continue, flooding will trap them in, heat waves will bake them, earthquakes will shatter their bunker. Humans especially will accelerate this process. Space, however is very achievable today, and contents are well preserved due to the vacuum, and radiation. Not many things that you would have to worry about in space, but one thing is location. If your orbits are off by a hundred thousandth of a meter per second, in 1000 years, you may land outside the shuttle. The one way to guarantee you are inside is to take the shuttle with you, which shouldn't be too difficult. Another concern would be power. The most likely source would be an RTG, a device that generates power off of radiation. Typically the plutonium 238 inside of these has a 87.5 year half live, meaning if you brought 10kg up with you, you would have about 0.003kg when you came back. Americanium 241, however, has a half life of 437 years, meaning a 2kg sample from an RTG would contain 0.4kg after 1000 years. That's enough to generate 54 watts of power, or keep a battery pack charged.


Unlike humans, Supplies are expensive to send up to space. According to space.SE , it would cost about 2200 USD per Kg into LEO. Assuming The traveler is hefty 100kg , it would cost at minimum 50,000$ to send the traveler + some basic supplies. The return shuttle itself would probably be millions. To cut down on costs, one could hide caches of supplies around the planet in containers. This would not only cut down the cost of transportation, but storage as well. All you need to do irradiate the food (Idea courtesy of Michael Karnerfors) for a long period of time. Given they you're already buying americanium for an RTG, I say you get a bulk quote and save some money.

The journey:

preparing is only half the battle, what do you do when you get there?

Well, Assuming you're in space, and still in your shuttle:
Is earth still 'there'? can you land on it? If either of those questions is no, then you're probably not getting home. turn off the oxygen and watch the stars for a bit. If you can land, however, you'll need to do so soon, as you probably didn't bring enough rations to last more than a few days.
Can you recognize any landmasses?
While 1000 years is not enough for plate shift to be noticeable, the sea may rise and lower with time, and make some masses unrecognizable. If you cannot recognize the landmasses, then Are GPS signals still being transmitted? If so, you're in luck! you can pick a landing place with precision! If not, You're going to have to rough it out, and land somewhere.
Are there still Humans on earth?? if yes, you may be in good hands, humans are a sign of survival, which can help you do whatever you need to do. If no, Then something bad happened....

Hope this helps.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.