ATCHISON, Kan. — After most of the world’s population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine.
That is the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world’s largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River.
‘‘I do believe I am on a mission and doing a spiritual thing,’’ said Robert Vicino, who has purchased a large portion of the former US Army storage facility on the southeast edge of Atchison, 50 miles northwest of Kansas City, Mo. ‘‘We will certainly be part of the genesis.’’
Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.
Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Chamber of Commerce, said some people think the shelter plan sounds creepy or that Vicino has ‘‘lost his mind,’’ while others are excited because they will finally get a chance to tour the property.
The Army used the caverns — created by limestone mining operations that started in the late 1880s — for decades as a storage facility before putting them up for auction last year. The winning bid in December was $1.7 million, but financing fell through and the site was put up for sale again.
Springfield, Mo., investor Coby Cullins submitted his winning $510,000 bid for the property in early April, and he immediately started looking for ways to use it. One of his ideas was to lease the land to a company that builds survival bunkers.
Vicino, whose company is based in Del Mar, Calif., said he received an e-mail from Cullins and flew to Kansas two days later to check out the property. Vicino agreed to purchase 75 percent of the complex, rather than lease it, while Cullins retained the rest and is marketing it to local businesses.
The complex consists of two fully lighted, temperature-controlled mines with concrete floors. The east cave, which Cullins owns, has about 15 acres and contains offices, vaults, restrooms. The much larger west cave, which covers about 45 acres, is mostly undeveloped and will be converted into the Vivos facility.