We all do stupid things when we’re blowing off steam. Sometimes those things are captured in pictures and subsequently shared on social media. And sometimes those pictures get seen by the Malaysian government and the people who did said stupid thing gets arrested because it may have caused a devastating earthquake.
In this case, the stupid thing was going topless on top of the sacred Malaysian mountain Mount Kinabalu. Twenty-four-year-old Eleanor Hawkins was taking an extended trip around South East Asia post-graduation from Southampton University. She climbed to the top of the 13,435-foot mountain with nine other tourists and a guide on May 30. Once they reached the summit, they decided to take off most of their clothes and pose for a photo op, despite their tour guide’s warnings that they shouldn’t.
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Naturally, the photo ended up being posted on social media by 33-year-old Emil Kaminski, and the local Malaysian government got wind of it. This past Tuesday, Hawkins was arrested at the Tawau airport where she was intending to fly from Borneo to Kuala Lumpur. Four of the other offending tourists turned themselves in that day as well, and the government is still looking for the remaining five.
While you might think this is just a case of indecent exposure, the local Malaysian government believes the disrespectful act is responsible for the subsequent earthquake in the area that killed 18 people and stranded 200 more. While Hawkins appears to be the prime target of the country’s outrage, blogger Mr. Kaminski (who posted the offending photo) is actually believed to be the catalyst.
After Masidi Manjun, tourism minister of the Malaysian state of Sabah, stated publicly that the hiking streakers were responsible for the earthquake, Kaminski began mocking him on his social media pages. However, he told the New Zealand Herald he meant no disrespect to the Malaysian state overall. “I was not insulting Malaysia, I was not making any references to all those people who died – I was simply insulting the minister, because to say something that ——- stupid… You really need to lobotomise yourself on a piece of heavy machinery. I mean, how do you get to be that far up in government if you don’t know anything about plate techtonics, seismology, about geology – have you even heard these words?”
Kaminski took his diatribe one step further by posting a video of the incident and aftermath on YouTube. In it, he essentially restates why the situation is absurd, and people need to get some perspective.
Meanwhile, poor Ms. Hawkins and her fellow hikers are awaiting judgment by the tribal court. A local tribal official told the New Zealand Herald, “According to local beliefs, the spirit of the mountain is very angry. The tourists who angered the guardian of the mountain should pay for their mistakes by giving ‘sogit’ (a peace offering).” Apparently, the tourists will need to pay 10 heads of buffalo to the mountain protector in order to make amends for their misconduct. I know it’s archaic and absurd, but just figuring out how to obtain 10 buffalo heads would make for a great entry to Mr. Kaminksi’s travel blog.
Ms. Hawkins’ father hopes she’s not made an example of just because of how blown out of proportion the situation has gotten. He told the New Zealand Herald, “I’m not dismissing it as completely trivial. But it’s just something many of us have done in a mad drunken moment, that young people do on holidays every year, and have got away with. They were 4,000 feet up a mountain with no one else around.” So really, all this should be blamed on our need to post every cool thing that happens to us on social media. I suppose the moral of the story is, what happens on Mount Kinabalu should stay on Mount Kinabalu.