"The misery and desperation of our situation multiplied every weakness, every quirk of personality, every flaw in character, a thousandfold," McKinlay wrote.
In the darkest development of all, crewman George Breddy was found in his tent, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Most of the group assumed it was accidentally self-inflicted, but the recent disputes over food gave his death a lingering note of suspicion.
Scientist Bjarne Mamen, generous and big-hearted and just 22, was one of the hardest hit by the mysterious malady. "My body looks horrible. It has swollen up now so that I am frightened about myself," he wrote in his diary. "Is it death for all of us? No, with God's help we will get out to of it," he said.
A few days later, he was dead.
Geologist George Malloch, 33, also died. While the survivors waited for a break in the weather to dig graves, the cook, according to Hadley, was "nearly out of his head with the two dead men beside him in the tent."
McKinlay looked at the rest of the party and saw suffering all around: swelling, weakness, snow blindness, blisters, peeling skin, frozen feet, gangrene. "I was too miserable to care what happened," he recalled.
On top of that, starvation was closing in, and the men resorted to eating leftover tails, flippers and hides.
"What we ate had little or no sustenance in it," McKinlay wrote, "but it prevented the violent muscular contractions of an empty stomach and deadened the sickening hunger pains."
By July, more than a year after they first set sail, the group was down to just 80 rounds for their guns. If no help came by the end of August, the ice would begin to close off the island from any potential rescue. The men began to prepare for another winter as castaways, but they would be facing almost a year with no food supplies and almost no ammunition.
They had no way to reach Siberia, with all but three of their 20 dogs gone. They were in no shape to trudge across ice ridges and giant cracks, with almost no food left, carrying their supplies on their backs.
King and Winge
Despite perilous ice cracks, steep ridges and bitter temperatures of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, miraculously, Bartlett and Kataktovik made it to Siberia.
Their sled-dog trip over the ice covered an extraordinary 200 miles in only 17 days.
But they still had to reach civilization. The two then traversed overland 500 miles in three weeks -- sometimes sledding as late as 4 a.m. in the midnight sun, until they reached the Siberian port of Emma Harbor.
Hurrying onward to Alaska, Bartlett encountered McConnell, who had returned there after several months serving with Stefansson's continuing expedition.
Bartlett recruited ships for several attempts to rescue the men at Wrangel Island, but bad weather and pack ice forced each venture to turn back.
"It was now late in August," McConnell wrote, and "either the survivors must be rescued within 10 days at the most, or they surely would starve to death during the winter."
Finally, as their window was closing, McConnell asked the owner of the schooner King and Winge to mount one more rescue attempt.
"The King and Winge fought every foot of her way through the ice," bumping and crashing and grinding "through ice almost as high as the masts," McConnell reported in The New York Times. Sometimes the reinforced ship climbed up on the ice and broke it down with its sheer weight.
"I think I see a ship!" One of the survivors on Wrangel Island had spotted the King and Winge breaking through, and called out to the others. "I jumped up and there, sure enough, was a schooner coming," Hadley wrote.
They shouted at the tops of their voices and rushed out onto the ice waving, according to Chafe, overjoyed. "We had practically given up all hopes of being rescued," he wrote.
The survivors were pale and gaunt, with matted hair and unkempt beards, sunken eyes and emaciated cheeks, their clothing and tents tattered and grimy.
"They were in a desperate plight when we arrived," McConnell wrote.
Aboard the King and Winge, the men feasted on a sumptuous breakfast of eggs, cereal, toast and coffee, with "huge spoonfuls of both sugar and condensed milk."
They were so excited they couldn't even sleep the first night. "We talked and talked unceasingly, with the sheer exhilaration of being alive," McKinlay wrote. "What luxuries we enjoyed!"