Bartlett and Kataktovik had pulled off the impossible, saving the lives of the 12 stranded men.
Eleven of the 31 original members of the Karluk expedition had died, six had gone ashore in Alaska and amazingly 14 survived a year on the ice including Bartlett and the Eskimo, Kataktovik.
As for Stefansson, he played no role in the rescue efforts for the men he left behind. After leaving the Karluk, he continued exploring the Arctic for five years, to the point that many gave him up for dead. But in fact, he was out charting much of the remainder of Canada's unknown northern reaches, discovering and naming new islands. His work was widely hailed on his return.
But Stefansson's success at survival may have led him to underappreciate the risks and the costs of Arctic exploration.
Instead of appreciating the dangers that killed almost half of the Karluk's crew, he asked why they all hadn't simply marched to the safety of Siberia's coast, writing in his book, "It would have been easy to get ashore."
When I was growing up, I heard Stefansson described as a visionary and determined young explorer who relished the impossible and accomplished the extraordinary. But others see him as a self-promoting risk-taker, regarded with skepticism by some of his own men.
"The geographical societies rushed to heap honors on him," McKinlay wrote with some bitterness, but "not the slightest mention was made of the loss of 11 men."
Looking at a map of the Arctic's most distant boundaries, I see all the places Stefansson named after his men.
McConnell Island is one of them, a remote and barren chunk of ice and snow. I don't think I'll ever try to go see it in person -- it looks like a bitterly cold no-man's land that is impossible to get to. But there's some family pride in seeing the name on Google Earth.
Then there are places named after those who perished: Cape Mamen, Cape Malloch, Cape Beuchat.
All these names, forever inscribed in the map of the world, form an indelible tribute to those who lost their lives exploring the last uncharted expanses of the Arctic.
They also honor explorers who fought for survival amid countless dangers and lived to tell about it. And they bear witness to an age when men of ambition and determination would head out into the unknown and risk everything, to try to conquer Earth's farthest reaches.