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  • A Ship that Flips
    The Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is a 355-foot-long manned spar buoy designed as a stable research platform for oceanographic research. FLIP has no propulsion power and is towed to its operating area in the horizontal position. Through a series of ballast changes, it “flips” into the vertical position to become a stable spar buoy with a draft of 300 feet. Scientists Fred Spiess and Philip Rudnick, and physicist Fred Fisher, of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, took the lead in developing the innovative design. Glosten (then known as L. R. Glosten & Associates) was contracted to assist Scripps in the design, model testing, and construction.

    FLIP capable of operating vertically and horizontally

    One of the greatest design challenges for FLIP included working out the crew living space arrangements, which had to fit as many crew as possible and work in both of FLIP’s vertical and horizontal positions. This type of problem had never been explored by naval architects before, and required some innovative space-saving solutions. FLIP also needed to be stable enough to conduct precise science work in the open ocean.

    Some Floors Have Doors

    To solve the flipping challenge, most rooms on FLIP have two doors, one to use when horizontal, and the other when FLIP is vertical. Some walls become floors and some floors have doors. Bunk beds, toilets, and stoves are built on swivels and gimbals, so they will turn in place, saving space as the vessel makes its “flip.”

    FLIP Celebrates 50 Years

    FLIP’s ballast engineering makes it uniquely stable in rough seas, and has served as a valuable oceanographic research platform for the Navy, National Science Foundation, and other agencies. Carrying a research team of 11 people and a crew of five, FLIP can sustain research operations for up to 30 days without resupply and can operate either drifting or moored. In 2012, Scripps celebrated FLIP’s  50th birthday and its status as the most unique ship in science.

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    At Glosten, innovative thinking is grounded in a comprehensive understanding of all things marine.


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