For attorney John Bachofner, discovery has a different meaning when he splashes into the silent world underwater, whether it is exploring the tropical reefs in the Philippines or the historic artifacts at the Fort Vancouver waterfront.

Bachofner, an attorney with Jordan Ramis PC and based in the firm's Vancouver offices, is a veteran scuba diver, having achieved certifications as dive master and dive instructor.

"It is a great opportunity to decompress," Bachofner said of his diving hobby. "You can't take a call underwater."

Bachofner — whose practice areas include insurance coverage and defense, as well as bankruptcy and creditors' rights — began diving in 1982 while in college. His passion for diving was inspired as a youth watching the television show Sea Hunt and Jacques Cousteau's documentaries.

"To me, it is the closest thing to flying," he said.

In the water, he said, you are weightless and with the proper buoyancy you can change your depth simply by changing your breathing. "On land, I lumber around. In the water, I can be graceful."

He has travelled the world to go on dive trips. He also volunteers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where he helps clean the exhibits. He said there is plenty to be explored diving in the Pacific Northwest. "Some of the best diving around is in Washington and Oregon," he said.

One of his favorite dives occurred in 2007, when he assisted the U.S. National Park Service in an archaeological survey of the Fort Vancouver waterfront under the Columbia River. The national historic site is normally off limits to diving any other time.

They discovered and cataloged artifacts from the area's Native American, Hudson's Bay Company, and U.S. Army occupants of the site. "I found the history of it very intriguing," Bachofner said.

Among their discoveries were old medical pill bottles and porcelain bowls, Bachofner said. Mapping, touching, and taking pictures of the artifacts caused him to think about the historic events — such as the Civil War — that were happening in the United States during the time the items were dropped into the river.

"You are holding a piece of history in your fingertips and that's pretty neat," he said.
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