Doug Coughran is nothing if not self-deprecating.
Just two months after a near-death experience in which he was almost speared through the eye while trying to free a tangled whale, the wildlife veteran offers a wry observation when describing the incident publicly for the first time.
"Put it this way, I knew what was ugly was going to be uglier," Mr Coughran said referring to his face and the damage it sustained in the freakish incident.
One of Australia's foremost whale experts, Mr Coughran, a senior wildlife officer with the Department of Parks and Wildlife, was almost killed during the July accident that has until now been largely a secret.
The 62-year-old, who in 2010 was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his contribution to conservation, was off Busselton to free a 40-tonne humpback whale that had become entangled in rock lobster fishing gear.
Mr Coughran said he was about to cut the animal loose - using a 3m pole fixed with a specialised knife - when he brushed with death.
As the whale lashed out, the pole effectively became a spear aimed at his right eye and it was only a remarkable piece of planning, and good fortune, that spared his life. He said he had foreseen just such an incident years before, and afterwards ensured that all poles used in whale rescues be fitted with a protective six-inch ball at the handler's end.
"They're extremely sensitive to touch and as soon as it felt the touch it flicked its tail, pushed the pole and speared it straight back in my face," Mr Coughran said.
"It went straight at the right side of my face, hit the side of the helmet and the ball actually started to deflect it. That ball eventually came off as it went past the side of my head but it caught me just under the right eye so I ended up with eight stitches and a big chunk taken out of the right side of my face.
"Had that not been on there, it would have been catastrophic - it would have gone straight through the eye socket and out the back of my head."
Mr Coughran was rushed to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital requiring surgery but, astonishingly, came away virtually unscathed and was back at work within two days.
Speaking about the incident from London, where he is attending a conference on whales, he was philosophical.
"What we do is high risk, really high risk," Mr Coughran said.
"I come from the old era of planning for the worst scenario and of course if everything is better than that then you're miles in front. And that's the moral to this particular incident.
"People have this magical idea that the whales know we're trying to help them but that's absolute rubbish.
"They're an extremely large animal. They're a fight species and they'll try and get away from you, but if they can't then they'll stop and give you a hard time."