It’s been long-established by the modern scientific community that earthquakes are a natural geological phenomenon resulting from volcanic activity or when energy in the form of seismic waves is released by massive, under-stress rocks breaking along fault planes located deep below the Earth’ surface. As the seismic waves travel outward, the terrain covering Earth’s outermost layer, the crust, begins to tremble and shake as a result of the sudden slippage — sometimes violently, sometimes so lightly that it can hardly be detected.

On June 5, a 6.0-magnitude tremor rattled Sabah, a largely mountainous East Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. An earthquake of considerable size for the normally typhoon-wary Malay Archipelago, the seismic activity was centered near Mount Kinabalu, the towering centerpiece of UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Kinabalu Park. Massive landslides sparked by the quake claimed the lives of at least 16 park visitors, many of them children, and stranded many more on the highest peak in Southeast Asia.

While plate tectonics have been established as the official cause of the tragic quake, many local residents — and some government officials — are firm in the belief that the tremor was a display of rage by mountain-dwelling spirits known as aki (“moutain protectors”). The mythological mountain gods were apparently angered by 10 tourists who, several days before the quake hit, decided it would be a fine idea to completely disrobe and snap some photos after reaching Kinabalu's south peak.

The butt-heavy snaps were taken on May 30 and started appearing on social media sites shortly thereafter.

While they didn’t know it at the time, the climbers, who broke away from a larger tour group to strip down and take the offending pics, messed with the wrong mountain.

As reported by The Guardian, Malaysian authorities arrested one of the nude climbers at a nearby airport as she attempted to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur on Peninsular Malaysia. There are also reports that two of the climbers, a pair of siblings hailing from Canada, have been blocked from leaving Sabah by authorities.

Just try to imagine that phone call home: Hi Dad, it's me. So, Sis and I have been in detained in Malaysia for getting naked on a mountain and causing an earthquake. Can you please contact the Canadian Consulate?

Another Canadian citizen named Emil Kaminski, owner of a now notorious derrière, is still on the lam and has since taken to trolling incensed Malaysians via social media. 

Stripping down for an impromptu R-rated photo session on mountainous terrain or an ancient site isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. It’s de rigueur for many thrill-seekers looking to add an additional layer of social media-based narcissism to their accomplishment. If scaling one of the world’s tallest peaks and taking a selfie from the tip-top of the world wasn’t already an impressive enough “look at me” moment, many climbers take it up a notch by, well, taking off all of their clothes. Like that view? Check out my hot bod, too.

In fact, the trend has gotten so out of hand at Machu Picchu that you can almost expect to see some exposed flesh at nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. And while the nudity on view at Machu Picchu is mercifully fleeting (no one is stripping down and playing volleyball or anything), Peruvian officials have taken a hard line against bare butts, claiming that naturism within the confines of a UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t just distracting for other (clothed) visitors but completely disrespectful.

In the opinion of many Malaysians, particularly indigenous residents of Sabah, cultural disrespect is exactly what raised the ire of aki and lead to the June 5 earthquake.

“The quake can be taken as a confirmation of what we feared could be the consequence of their actions," Sabah’s deputy chief minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan recently told local reporters of the trou-dropping trekkers during a press conference. "We have to take this tragedy as a reminder that local beliefs and customs cannot be disrespected.”

Pairin, who claims to have felt something was off and experienced some sort of premonition in the days leading up to the quake, adds: “Whether other people believe this or not, it’s what we Sabahans believe. When the earthquake happened, it’s like a confirmation of our beliefs. It is a sacred mountain and you cannot take it lightly.”

In addition to the already spirit-angering round of high-altitude birthday suit photography, the rogue climbers, which in addition to three Canadians reportedly include a pair of Dutch citizens and a German, cursed out a mountain guide when he tried to stop them from stripping down.

“They were so offended and angry with the behaviour,” said Kinabalu Park staffer Alip Sampli of local reaction to the ill-behaved, pants-less climbers. “The mountain is sacred to the people here. The worse part is that they were rude and disrespected the guide who told them not to do it.”

While it’s unclear whether all 10 buck-naked hellions will stand trial — and perhaps more importantly, what exactly they will be charged with  the Malay Mail Online notes that local tribal leaders are “calling for the culprits to be brought to a native court and charged according to local customs.”

Meanwhile, officials are planning to hold a traditional ceremony on Mount Kinabalu with hopes that it will calm the inflamed mountain spirits. While no exact date has been set for the ceremoney, it will likely occur once search and rescue efforts on the mountain have fully wrapped up.

Via [The Washington Post], [The Guardian], [Malay Mail Online]

Related on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.