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The First Valdivia – A Metaphor for Executive Recruitment

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Who was the Valdivia?

On Juli 31st, 1898, the research vessel Valdivia set sail from Hamburg. It was the German Empire’s first great expe­di­tion to explore the deep sea, led by Carl Chun from Hoechst, today Frankfurt/Main, who lived from 1852 to 1914. The Valdivia, which was equipped with what was then cutting-edge research devices, was not only capa­ble of sound­ing the ocean at depths of 6km and more.

A Research Adven­ture – the Voyage of the Valdivia 

On its voyage, the Valdivia scaled more than 32,000 sea miles (59,264 km) across the Atlantic and the Indi­an Ocean. With her bathymeter, a depth sound­ing device, she discov­ered not only the Walvis Ridge, an ocean ridge off the Namib­ian coast, but also substan­tial struc­tures in the Indi­an Ocean, almost entire­ly unknown terri­to­ry at that point. The redis­cov­ery of Bouvet Island, a volcanic island about halfway between Cape Town and Antarc­ti­ca, was sort of a side effect of that trip.

As Thrilling as a Crime Story – Discov­er­ing Life in the Deep Sea 

Apart from system­at­i­cal­ly deep-sound­ing through­out the entire voyage, the main goal of the expe­di­tion was gath­er­ing spec­i­men of deep sea crea­tures. The yield was so exten­sive that the 24-volume scien­tif­ic report on it was only finalised in 1940. Beside numer­ous hith­er­to unknown types of animals and plants, Chun also gained fund­men­tal scien­tif­ic find­ings, such as the adap­tion of organ­isms to the specif­ic condi­tions in the deep sea.

What is our Link with a Research Vessel? 

Exec­u­tive Search, from our perspec­tive, is possi­ble only if you go deep enough. Recruit­ing at top level can only be success­ful with in-depth under­stand­ing of human nature and the rele­vant tech­ni­cal know-how. Going deep, howev­er, also stands for our commit­ment and passion in our approach to work, every single day – just like Carl Chun, the initia­tor and leader of the Valdivia expe­di­tion. It took him two years to prepare the mission and to promote it with­in the Soci­ety of German Natur­al Scien­tists and Physi­cians (Gesellschaft Deutsch­er Natur­forsch­er und Ärzte e. V., GDNÄ), which is today the oldest and biggest inter­dis­ci­pli­nary scien­tif­ic asso­ci­a­tion in Germany. It is with this construc­tive spir­it that we feel a link – and we expe­ri­ence the value of it in our work every single day.

If you want to learn more about the voyage and the discov­er­ies of the Valdivia, we recom­mend this book: “Valdivia. Die Geschichte der ersten deutschen Tief­see-Expe­di­tion” by Rudi Palla, published by Galiani Verlag (Berlin 2016), ISBN 9783869711249.