Girev (Geroff), Dmitriy Semenovich - Dog driver
(1889 - 1932) - Biographical notes

Dog handler Terra Nova 1910-13


Robert Forde

Dmitriy Semenovich Girev
1st June 1889 - December 1932

One of two Russians on Scott's expedition, the other being the groom Anton Omelchenko, they came to the attention of Cecil Meares who was sent to Siberia by Scott to buy both ponies and dogs for the expedition and were recommended as excellent handlers of the animals upon which they were both recruited.

Girev had his name written by Scott in his diary as Geroff and so is often seen referred to by this, he is also sometimes mistakenly spelt  as Girov or Gerov, likewise Dmitriy sometimes becomes Dimiti or Dmitrii.

He was born in the village of Aleksandrovsk on Sakhalin Island off the far eastern coast of Russia, just north of Japan. He was the son of a convict who had been deported to Sakhalin, as such men were barred from marrying church, he was considered illegitimate and took his mother's name.

In 1897 at the end of their exile, the family moved to Nikolaevsk-on-Amur on the mainland of Russia near Sakhalin where he went to school and then trained as an electrician. Dog teams were indispensable in the area where he lived and he became famous as one of the best dog handlers in the area, he learned how to drive dogs from the native people of Amur, the Nivkhi.

 He travelled to Antarctica via Vladivostok, Shanghai, and Sydney, joining the Terra Nova in Christchurch.

One of the youngest members of the expedition, 21 at the beginning, he became popular and effective working closely with Meares and then when Meares returned to England, was always one of the dog team drivers when two teams were sent out.

He took part in laying supply depots with the dogs in January-March 1911 as preparation for the south pole attempt and later in the year in November 1911 accompanied Scott's Polar Party to the lower Beardmore Glacier depot before being turned back with his dog team. He accompanied Cherry-Garrard to One Ton Depot at the beginning of March 1912 where they went to meet the returning Pole Party, a meeting that never happened and then with increasingly cold and windy weather, running out of food and with Girev suffering from the effects of the cold, they returned to the expedition base. He was also one of the team who found the dead members of the South Pole Party after the winter in November 1912.

After the expedition he disembarked at New Zealand where he stayed for a while but was back in Siberia by 1915 finding employment in gold mining and dredging, In 1930 he was arrested in a communist party purge and imprisoned in Vladivostok for 18 months, he died of a heart attack on his way home on release at the age of 43.


Dmitriy Girev (l) and Cecil Meares (r)
by the blubber stove Discovery Hut, at Hut Point

References to Dmitriy Girev by Cherry-Garrard in "The Worst Journey in the World"

  • I believe both Anton and Dimitri, the Russian dog driver, were brought originally to look after the ponies and dogs on their way from Siberia to New Zealand. But they proved such good fellows and so useful that we were very glad to take them on the strength of the landing party.

  • The blizzard raged all that day, and the next night and morning, and nothing could be done. But during the afternoon of the 20th the conditions improved, and at 4.30 p.m. Atkinson and Dimitri started with the two dog-teams, though it was still blowing hard and very thick. They travelled, with one rest for the dogs, until 4.30 p.m. the next day, but had a very hazy idea where they were most of the time, owing to the vile weather: once at any rate they seem to have got right in under White Island.

  • But we got along very well, Dimitri driving his team in front, as he did most of this journey, and picking up marks very helpfully with his sharp eyes.

  • On the day after we arrived at One Ton (March 4) Dimitri came to me and said that the dogs ought to be given more food, since they were getting done and were losing their coats: they had, of course, done a great deal of sledging already this year. Dimitri had long experience of dog-driving and I had none.

  • Thus I felt little anxiety for the Polar Party. But I was getting anxious about my companion. Soon after arrival at One Ton it was clear that Dimitri was feeling the cold. He complained of his head; then his right arm and side were affected; and from this time onwards he found that he could do less and less with his right side.

  • By now I was becoming really alarmed and anxious about Dimitri, who seemed to be getting much worse, and to be able to do less and less.

  • Dimitri saw the Cairn with the Cross more than eight miles away this morning, and in a good light it would be seen from much farther off.  November 15. Early morning. We built a cairn to mark the spot near which Oates walked out to his death, and we placed a cross on it.

Note: Dmitriy Girev along with fellow Russian Anton Omelchenko are referred to almost universally by their first names unlike all of the other men on the expedition, this is found in the writings of Cherry-Garrard, Scott and the diaries of others.


Other Crew of the Terra Nova Expedition

Abbot, George Percy - 12N - Petty Officer, R.N.
Atkinson, Edward L. - 12DPS - R.N. - surgeon, parasitologist
Balson, Albert - 1 2 - Leading seaman, R.N.
Bowers, Henry Robertson - 12DCPo - Lieutenant
Browning, Frank Vernon - 12N - Petty Officer
Campbell, Victor - 12N - Lieutenant, R.N.
Cheetham, Alfred B. - Boatswain (Bosun), R.N.R.
Cherry-Garrard, Apsley - 12DCS - Assistant zoologist
Crean, Tom - 12DPS - petty officer, R.N.
Debenham
, Frank - 12iWiiW - Geologist
Dickason, Harry - 12N - Able Seaman
Evans, Edgar - 1iWPo - petty officer, R.N.
Evans
, Edward R.G.R. - 1DP - Lieutenant, R.N. "Teddy Evans" - second in command, and Captain of the Terra Nova
Girev (Geroff), Dmitriy - 12DPS - Dog driver

Gran, Tryggve - 12DiiWS - ski expert
Lashly, William - 12PS - chief stoker, R.N.
Levick, G. Murray - 12N - Surgeon, R.N.
McLeod
, Thomas F. - 12 - Able seaman
Meares
, Cecil H. - 1DP - in charge of dogs
Oates
, Lawrence - 1DPo - Capt. 6th Iniskilling Dragoons
Ponting
, Herbert G. - 1 - Camera artist
Priestley, Raymond E. - 12N - Geologist
Omelchenko
, Anton - 1 - Groom
Scott
, Robert Falcon - 1DPo - Commander, R.N. - Expedition leader
Simpson, George - 1 - Meteorologist
Taylor, T. Griffith - 1iWiiW - Geologist
Wilson, Edward Adrian - 1DCPo - chief of scientific staff and biologist
Wright, Charles Seymour - 12iWPS - Physicist

Key:
1 - first winter
2 - second winter
iW - first western party
iiW - second western party
N - northern party

D - depot laying for south pole journey
P - south pole party
C - winter journey to Cape Crozier
S - search party for south Pole party
Po
- reached South Pole


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