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Research’s Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) turns 50 (2 videos)

The only one of its kind in the world, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego’s FLoating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is a 355-foot-long manned spar buoy designed to serve as a stable platform for oceanographic research.


Resembling a long baseball bat, FLIP is classified as a “research platform” since it has no propulsion power. Rather, FLIP is towed to its operating area in the horizontal position and, through ballast changes, is “flipped” in about 30 minutes to the vertical position to become uniquely stable.

FLIP, owned by the U.S. Navy, is designed to accommodate riders in both horizontal and vertical positions, leading to a unique and sometimes bizarre layout with doors mounted on the floor, portholes in the ceiling, tables bolted sideways to walls, and stairs seemingly leading to nowhere.

Delivering its remarkable research capabilities for half a century, FLIP has supported science in a variety of locations across a spectrum of research projects, including acoustics, marine mammal research, geophysics, meteorology, physical oceanography, and laser propagation experiments.

How a flip ship works