Out of all the ships you have seen in your life, can you even imagine one floating in horizontal position? Well, you don’t need to, because there’s actually Scripps Oceanography’s Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP).
What is FLIP?
he FLoating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is technically not a ship, but a 355-foot-long oceanographic research platform. However, for not being a ship, it definitely looks like a capsized vessel.
Normally moored at San Diego Bay, the vessel would be towed out to sea, as it possessed no propulsion system, in its horizontal position and then flipped so that 300 feet of its length were submerged. FLIP would host a research team of 11 people and a crew of 5.
Its horizontal position allowed for improved stability even in massive waves. For instance, FLIP’s total vertical motion in 10-meter waves has been less than 1 meter.
According to Scripps Oceanography, FLIP was built in 1962 to help study long-range sound propagation for submarine warfare, for the U.S. Navy. Since then, FLIP has supported research in geophysics, meteorology, physical oceanography, and other scientific fields.
It was an engineering marvel constructed during an important phase of new technology for ocean exploration following World War II. The many discoveries from FLIP help set the stage for ongoing cutting-edge science to understand our ocean.
– Scripps Oceanography Director, Margaret Leinen
This August, however, FLIP’s distinguished career finished its final chapter when it was towed to a dismantling and recycling facility, six years after its last research voyage.
How does FLIP flip?
FLIP was hauled to its operational location in the horizontal position and “flipped” to the vertical position in less than 30 minutes using ballast modifications. The 300 feet below the surface depth was necessary for the initial underwater acoustic investigation.
FLIP’s interior spaces have been described as perplexing and unconventional, featuring unexpected elements such as floor-installed doors, ceiling portholes, and dual-configured basins and toilets.
These design choices are a result of FLIP’s unique ability to accommodate crew in both horizontal and vertical orientations, adding to the overall intrigue of its layout.
Cool facts about flip
- The platform could either float freely or be moored (anchored) to the ocean floor at depths of up to 5,000 meters.
- Deep-water moorings took a full day to accomplish, from first light to past dusk, in waters 4,000 to 5,000 meters deep. About 50 tons of gear aboard the tow vessel were required for a deep mooring.
- The hull was designed to resist twisting.
- Constructed at the Gunderson Brothers Engineering Corporation in Portland, Oregon in 1962, FLIP was made of approximately 700 tons of Tri-Ten steel, a product of U.S. Steel Corporation.
- Fresh water was carried in a 1,500-gallon tank and replenished daily by a 31-gal/hour reverse-osmosis water maker.
- Three diesel generators supplied 340 KW electrical power for ship and scientific needs. The engines were mounted on trunnions for operation with FLIP in either the horizontal or vertical position.
- About 3,000 cubic feet of air at a maximum pressure of 250 psi is stored in eight storage flasks located inside the ballast tanks.