Teen Apologizes For Riding a Whale in Australia

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Though he did have a whale of a time.

An adventurous Australian teenager decided to channel Moby Dick, when he spotted a whale and climbed onto its back at Middleton Beach in Albany, south of Perth.  The headlines emerged when an eye-witness, who photographed the boy clambering on the whale, alerted authorities claiming that it was an act of cruelty.

The whale rider, Sam Matheson, 14, is now apologizing for his actions, stating that he did not intend to harm the mammal, nor did he realize the grave danger he put himself in. (Learn more about protecting whales in Could Lifting the Whaling Ban Save the Whales?)

Admitting that curiosity got the better of him, Sam told local media, “I was at the beach with a friend named Shayden. The whale was there, only about 10 or 15 meters from the reef.  It’s a rare occasion for a whale to be so close to shore. Then I took the opportunity to take a closer look.”

Sam swam out and mounted the whale,  which took him about 30 meters out to sea. Describing his once-in-a-lifetime experience on board this enormous creature he added, “It’s skin was like a leather texture, like a really smooth leather, really soft. It wasn’t even scary, it was like, ‘Dude, it’s a whale.'”

Initially the 14-meter-long whale was unaware of Sam on his back but eventually began to shake his tail to push the free loader off. Sam then swam back to the reef. The high school student has said he did not realize that it was illegal or dangerous to swim within 30 meters (98.4 feet) of a whale and that he now regretted his actions.

“If I had known it was illegal I wouldn’t have done it,” he told reporters. Matheson was let off with a warning but harassing protected species carries a maximum fine of 10,000 Australian dollars ($9,890) under environmental laws. (Check out TIME’s Environment: Help for Whales.)

Remember, Free Willy is fictional kids, let’s not get carried away. Literally.