Ipswich: Deep blue dangers are all in a day’s work for diver Jeff, 70

Commercial diver Jeff Errington is still going strong at the age of 70.

Commercial diver Jeff Errington is still going strong at the age of 70. - Credit: Archant

He has become a living legend in the world of commercial diving. And at the age of 70, Jeff Errington can still be found inspecting shipwrecks and controlling demolitions in the deep blue sea.

It was Saturday, June 22, and Jeff was leading a class at Ipswich’s – and East Anglia’s – largest diving shop, Diveline, which has an impressive large indoor swimming pool for teaching a whole range of diving disciplines, when duty called.

The DFDS Sirena Seaways, a passenger ferry carrying more than 400 people, had struck a dock wall at Parkeston Quay near Harwich.

It was time for Jeff to leap into action and do what he has been doing for the last 40 years.

“I was there Saturday night, Sunday night and Monday night!” he said, explaining the intricacies of the underwater rescue operation to stabilise the listing boat, in which he played a central role.

That expedition lasted only three nights, though.

“Sometimes I’ll spend a whole week on a job,” he said. “It could be at Ipswich or Felixstowe docks. I’ll be underwater for a good hour at a time.

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Jeff, originally from Sedgefield, County Durham, joined the Royal Navy straight from school, enrolling on an engineering course before a love for diving emerged.

He spent the next decade honing his craft as an explosive engineer – effectively a minesweeper, clearing the way for the fleet.

“You don’t have any fears at that age,” he said. “You think you’re bullet-proof.”

He went on to work at gas rigs around British shores, inspecting shipwrecks, harbour deepening, welding metal and controlling demolitions underwater.

He designed and built the first multiple sclerosis hyperbaric chamber, used in oxygen therapy, and established Diveline in St John’s Road, Ipswich, in 1983.

He teaches diving classes there, taking students on trips to the Red Sea.

But he also remains a commercial diver for Europa Diving, and is its in-house explosive engineer.

“I have to pass a full-on medical test every year,” he said.

“If I get to the stage where I feel I can’t carry out my job as well as before I’ll stop.

“But I feel fit and healthy and I’m not really surprised to still be doing what I’m doing.

“I actually think I’m better than the youngsters because of my experience.

“You can’t see underwater – it’s all about touch and feel.”

Staff at Diveline say you would be hard-pressed to find another commercial diver aged over 70.

Jeff says he wants to inspire the next generation of divers.