Like children gathered around a fish pond looking for goldfish, we found ourselveson hands and knees peering over the sides of Zodiacs. The still, reflective waters of Magdalena Bay provided an unexpected magical window into a world of mysteries below.

Moving through a medium much denser than our air, massive bulky gray whale bodies effortlessly performed a graceful ballet in water less than twenty feet deep. With slow purposeful motions of fluke or flipper they moved beneath us time and again. Their closeness stimulated all our senses beyond that which could have been imagined. For a moment we were given the power of "x-ray" vision. The water was stripped away and we truly could see the ripple of skin, the flexion of spine or the extension of jaw.

As the cone-shaped rostrum broke the surface and two nostrils were cleared, the rush of an exhale was followed by an audible whoosh of a rapid inhale. Their spray brushed our cheeks and coated our camera lenses. How many can say they were touched by the breath of a whale? Our olfactory receptors were not exempt from participation in this experience either, for gray whales could be accused of having severe halitosis.

Scientific literature states that gray whales do not feed in the breeding lagoons of Baja California. Their summer home in the Bering and Chukchi Seas is where they gorge on tiny amphipods and generate fat stores to last them through the long fast of wintertime. And yet the activity we witnessed today was clearly that of feeding whales. Heads down, they passed precisely along the bottom, the lower lip moving with a sucking action. Streams of mud passed through short baleen plates and streamed from the corners of their mouths. Over and over, right side down, the action was repeated.

Was our voyage of exploration a voyage of discovery? Were we witnessing a new behavior in a well-known population of mammals? Were these whales opportunistically feeding (having a snack) or were they actually starving and needing to gain weight before their long migration north? Only time and study will provide the answers, but we count ourselves among the fortunate few to have witnessed a world of wonder.