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The Lillie Parsons Drift Dive January 30, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
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On September 1, 2007, after practicing our technical skills on the Daryaw, drifting along the bottom of the St. Lawrence and then under our lift bags, the boat headed to Sparrow Island for a dive on the Lillie Parsons. We were supposed to sit this one out, as our tanks were nearly empty, but one of other divers had a partially full AL80 available, and as my Seaquest Raider could be converted to work with a single tank in fairly short order, I opted in to the dive.

One problem I had was weight – I didn’t have my usual weights with me because when diving with the steel tanks I didn’t need any. My ankle weights were still in my bag though so I stuffed them into my BC pockets and dived with only 3 pounds.

The entry to the Lillie is good fun. A good boat captain (like ours, who is old enough to have seen the Daryaw sink in 1941) will tie off about 100 yards upriver from the island with the bow facing the current, and the divers jump off one by one and drift along the surface to the island, being careful to position themselves at the point where the are no strong currents going to either side of the island. You then descend swimming back up the river and moving to the right (or North) to go down the wall on to the wreck which is upside down and barely hanging on to the slope. It is slowly slipping down and eventually will be a technical dive on the bottom at 165 feet.

I’ve seen a number of attempts at different ways to get on the wreck. Another one that works is to follow the anchor chain from the island down to the wreck, but I’ve not tried this personally. We saw one boat parked where we usually do, but the divers submerged under the boat instead of drifting down to the island. We saw bubbles in the vicinity of the boat for 15 minutes or so, and I don’t know if they ever found the wreck. Another group tried to drop down from beside the wreck and missed it completely.

There’s few things to see on this upside down wreck. The mast is visible, but it’s a hull, after all, and there’s not much to explore. Penetration is possible, but it’s confined and I don’t want to be in it when it finally plunges to the bottom. If you expend the effort to swim to the stern, which points into the current, you can fly over the hull which is always fun. This web site provides a good description of the wreck itself.

The current moves briskly and in most places you need to hang on to something unless you keep down between the wall and the wreck, in which case you’ll mostly be in eddies. After seeing all there is to see, you just let go and enjoy the drift. On the satellite photo below, the entry point is down at the bottom left, and the end of the drift is to the middle left. It goes by very fast! We drifted at about 30 feet, as the line hanging down from the island only goes to about 40 feet to discourage people from going to deep.

All of our divers found the wreck, and drifted together catching the line. It’s not hard, but you have to stay close to the wall or you’ll miss it. My maximum depth on the wreck was 56 feet, an the dive was only 18 minutes so even though I started with only 1800 PSI I came out with 800. Brad noticed I was lightly weighted because he saw me descend inverted with my fins sticking up out of the water. Even on ascent though, with a couple of pounds less air on my back,  I had no trouble holding my depth on the safety stop.

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1. Graduation Dive « Chronicle of an older diver - February 2, 2009

[…] made our way to the Lillie Parsons in the usual way, descending down the slope against the current and away from the island then […]

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