It must be chilly after dawn atop Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, which breaks through the clouds at 13,453 feet on the island of Bromeo.
But that didn’t stop 10 Western tourists from stripping on the summit around 7:00 AM on May 30, exposing themselves to the elements, fellow travelers’ smartphone cameras, and a peeved park ranger who reported the incident to police several days later.
Now, four of the ten exhibitionists are in a Malaysian holding cell, facing up to three months behind bars.
The indigenous Kadazan Dusun people are enraged by the tourists’ lewd behavior.
Some suspect that their tomfoolery set off a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Kinabalu last Friday, which killed 18 climbers.
Sabah’s chief tribal priest told Malaysia’s Star newspaper that “the spirit of the mountain is very angry” and will only be assuaged when the offending tourists pay a fine of ten buffaloes.
Meanwhile, the British government is reportedly reviewing its policy for tourists traveling to Malaysia, hoping this will appease Malaysian authorities so that they release 23-year-old Eleanor Hawkins of Derbyshire from imprisonment.
The natives are also displeased that Hawkins and the other Western hooligans reportedly urinated atop their sacred mountain. (I am confounded by this charge and wonder whether the natives customarily expect travelers to hold their stinging, distended bladders until they’ve descended Kinabalu. If not, why would the mountain’s spirit be anymore offended by people weeing on its rocky summit as opposed to weeing behind a tree?)
Predictably, the British tabloids are having a great deal of fun with the story. The Sun headlined Thursday’s paper, “Your Boobs Have Angered Mountain Gods,” alongside an image of Hawkins, who has become the face of the prank).
Hawkins’ parents, who visited their daughter last month in Malaysia, could not be reached for comment by The Daily Beast.
But her father, 57-year-old Timothy Hawkins, has spoken at length to the British media, confessing to The London Times that upon seeing the blurry photographs of the naked travelers, he “could tell from the body shape that it was Eleanor.”
He said his daughter’s shenanigans were “disrespectful and a bit stupid” but insisted she “didn’t realize that at the time.”
“Of course she didn’t cause the earthquake,” he added, “but she is deeply sorry for any offence that she has caused.”
Mr. Hawkins has also reassured the media of his daughter’s sterling upbringing.
“She is a very sensible young woman who has been working very hard on studies since the age of 11,” Mr. Hawkins told The Times, confirming that she graduated with a masters in aerospace engineering from Southampton University last year. (Hawkins himself is the director of an engineering company in Derby.)
Before university, Hawkins earned top marks at Ockbrook School in Derbyshire, according to her LinkedIn profile. She spent the previous summer working as a riding instructor at Pompositticut Farm Day Camp in Hudson, Massachusetts “as part of the Camp America summer placement scheme,” her profile reads.
Mr. Hawkins stressed that his daughter has never been in any kind of “trouble” before. Though he hadn’t inquired, he supposed “she might have been swimming naked in pools and all the sorts of things I did when I was young.”
Hawkins is believed to be in a cell with one of the other nudists, 22-year-old Canadian Danielle Petersen.
Her brother Lindsey Petersen, 22, and a Dutch man named Dylan Snel have reportedly also been arrested. The four appeared in court on Wednesday and are being remanded for another four days pending further investigation into their public indecency.
Lindsey Petersen’s last Facebook post was on May 26, four days before he took off his clothes atop Mount Kinabalu.
“Well Indonesia, it has been a slice!” he wrote in a brief digital update of his travel adventures: learning to surf, going on an “interesting 4-day boat journey,” diving in Komodo National Park, and meeting up with his sister, Danielle. “Not enough time to explore it all but on to the next destination, Borneo (Malaysia)!”
Malaysian police are on the hunt for 33-year-old Emil Kaminski—an adventure blogger and “notorious Canadian nudist,” according to the New Strait Times—who faces charges of indecent exposure and insulting Malaysian culture with inflammatory remarks on social media.
Manjun denied doing so in an interview with The Guardian and blamed Kaminski for starting rumors.
“Sabahans were boiling hot for their total disrespect of Mt Kinabalu, considered sacred by Sabah’s largest indigenous tribe (Kadazan Dusun who make up over 30% of the state’s 3.2 million population) even before the earthquake happened. The earthquake multiplies their anger 1,000 times.”