You’d think a ship designed after a baseball bat would go over like a foul ball when it comes to seaworthiness, but research ship FLIP has been a hit since its launch 50 years ago.
The bizarre research vessel can go from a horizontal to vertical position while staying afloat and stable in heavy seas, even in 80-foot waves. That allows it to perform oceanographic research measurements with great accuracy.
Operated by Scripps and owned by the U.S. Navy, the 355-foot FLIP was designed by Phillip Rudnick, Fred H. Fisher, and Fred N. Spiess, and first tested in July 1962 as part of an anti-submarine rocket program. It was recently shown off in the Pacific for its 50th birthday.
Every trip aboard conventional ships reminds the oceanographer of the value of a stable platform from which to perform experiments at sea. A ship’s natural motions not only make ocean measurements difficult to obtain with accuracy, but it reduces the effectiveness of personnel and equipment. This driving ocean force, among the most powerful in nature, dissipates rapidly just beneath the ocean surface. Even during severe sea storms rolling over several thousand square miles, a layer of relative calm lies a few hundred feet below the unruly waves. This region has become the domain of submarines during the past half century.
In 1962 they were joined by the research platform FLIP, FLoating Instrument Platform, whose great length lies mainly in the untroubled waters beneath the waves. As a result, she is almost as stable as a fencepost and, for those who study the sea, oceanographers, she offers an opportunity for more refined ocean measurements than they have ever had before.
The Floating Instrument Platform, FLIP, is a 355 foot long manned spar buoy designed as a stable research platform for oceanographic research. FLIP is towed to its operating area in the horizontal position and through ballast changes is “flipped” to the vertical position to become a stable spar buoy with a draft of 300 feet.