80-year-old Malcolm Laird of Christchurch, New Zealand, died at Machu Picchu in Peru on Sunday June 21 2015 of what is believed to have been a heart attack.
He was on holiday with his wife, Margaret Burrell, to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. They had been in Peru for two weeks.
More about Laird
Laird had no heart problems and saw a doctor in January, who cleared him to travel. He had experienced shortness of breath, one symptom of altitude sickness, in the preceding days and had been given oxygen.
Daughter, Tamsin, told of how her parents had returned to their hotel room following dinner, but her father stated that he “didn’t feel right.” Margaret and Patricio Thijssen, a tour guide, administered CPR.
A doctor arrived and applied defibrilators. Margaret held her husband’s hand all night, but he died. The body will be returned to New Zealand, which might take over two weeks. Autopsy results are awaited.
Laird was always an adventurer, visiting Antarctica on more than a dozen occasions for research and as a lecturer on cruises. He received the Polar Medal from his country’s Governor-General in 1978. A fossil, a plateau and a cape were named after him
On the first of these visits, Laird worked as a husky handler for four months in 1960 when he was studying geology at Auckland University.
One team of which he was part discovered a fossil that proved Australia and Antarctica were once joined. Laird Plateau and Cape Laird in Antarctica are named after him, as was the fossil.
Laird was a Doctor of Philosophy in sedimentology – the evaluation of geological history by reference to sedimentary structures. He obtained the qualification at Oxford University in 1969.
Not content with being an Antarctic explorer and sedimentologist, Laird was also a keen caver, and in 1958 was one of the first people down Harwood’s Hole, then the deepest known cave in New Zealand.
Tamsin remarked, “It feels like he’s just away on another expedition.”