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United States
OwnerOffice of Naval Research (former)
OperatorScripps Institution of Oceanography (former)
CostApproximately US$600,000[1]
Launched22 June 1962[1]
Completed23 July 1962[1]
In serviceSeptember 1962 [1]
Out of serviceAugust 2023
StatusTo be scrapped
General characteristics
TypeResearch platform
Tonnage700 GT[2]
Length108 m (355 ft)[2]
Beam7.93 m (26.0 ft)[2]
  • Towed: 3.83 m (12.6 ft)[2]
  • Deployed: 91.4 m (300 ft)[2]
Installed power
  • 2 × 150 kW (200 hp) diesel generators[4]
  • 1 × 40 kW (54 hp) aux generator[4]
SpeedTowed: 7–10 kn (8–12 mph; 13–19 km/h)[2]
Endurance35 days[2]
  • Fresh water: 5,680 L (1,500 US gal)[3]
  • Water generation: 120 L/h (31 gal/h)[3]
Complement5 crew, 11 researchers[2]

R/P FLIP (floating instrument platform) was an open ocean research platform[3][5] owned by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) and operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.[6] The platform was 108 meters (355 ft) long and was designed to partially flood and pitch backward 90°, resulting in only the front 17 meters (55 ft) of the platform pointing up out of the water, with bulkheads becoming decks. When flipped, most of the buoyancy for the platform was provided by water at depths below the influence of surface waves, hence FLIP was stable and mostly immune to wave action, similar to a spar buoy. At the end of a mission, compressed air was pumped into the ballast tanks in the flooded section and the platform, which had no propulsion, returned to its horizontal position so it could be towed to a new location.[7] The platform was frequently mistaken for a capsized ocean transport ship.[8]

FLIP's last research cruise was in late 2017, with ONR ending its support of the vessel in 2020.[9] It was berthed at the Nimitz Marine Facility pier (Scripps) in Point Loma until being towed away to be scrapped on August 4, 2023.


R.P.FLIP SAN DIEGO Sa under tow, 2012

The Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) of Scripps Institution of Oceanography created FLIP with funding from the Office of Naval Research and the assistance of the commercial naval architecture firm The Glosten Associates.[1] FLIP was originally built to support research into the fine-scale phase and amplitude fluctuations in undersea sound waves caused by thermal gradients and sloping ocean bottoms. This acoustic research was conducted as a portion of the Navy's SUBROC program. Development started in January 1960 after a conversation between MPL researcher Frederick H. Fisher and MPL Director Fred N. Spiess regarding stability problems that Fisher was encountering when using the submarine USS Baya (SS-318) as a research platform. Spiess recalled a suggestion from Allyn Vine that upending a ship might make it more stable, based on Vine's observation of a Navy mop floating in waves. Fisher was subsequently assigned to work on the feasibility and later development of such a vessel. The Gunderson Brothers Engineering Company in Portland, Oregon, launched FLIP on 22 June 1962.


FLIP was designed to study wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and for the collection of meteorological data. Because of the potential interference with the acoustic instruments, FLIP had no means of propulsion. It required towing to open water, where it drifted freely or was anchored.

FLIP was 700 gross tons. It carried a crew of five, plus up to eleven scientists. It was capable of operating independently during month-long missions without resupply.[10] It could be operated around the world, although it normally operated off the west coast of the United States from a home base at Scripps' Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego, California.[10] The ship had specially designed interiors: some fixtures, such as the toilet seats, could flip 90°, and the shower heads were curved 90°. There were overhead lights on the surfaces that were the ceilings in both the towing (horizontal) and flipped orientations.


FLIP was used on a number of research expeditions at Scripps, often towed off shore of California, with the last cruise being September-October 2017.

Research conducted on FLIP[11] has included studies of:

  • the relation of temperature variations in the ocean to fluctuations in intensity and direction of sound waves;
  • waves generated from storms in the South Pacific, for which FLIP was stationed between Hawaii and Alaska;
  • turbulence and thermal structure of the ocean;
  • amplitude and directionality of internal waves;
  • energy transfer between the ocean and atmosphere in which wind velocity, humidity, and temperature profiles immediately above the ocean surface were measured;
  • ambient noise intensity and direction using vertical hydrophone arrays suspended from FLIP and horizontal arrays (DIMUS) at the bottom of FLIP;
  • long-range sound propagation; variation in properties of the earth's crust, for which FLIP was used as a listening platform for explosive sound signals launched from four ships going away from FLIP in four different directions;
  • depths to which whales dive;
  • effects of pressure on sound attenuation;
  • scattering of sound from the sea surface and reverberation.


Following the COVID pandemic and reduced funding, the decision was taken to scrap the platform. In August 2023, Rob Sparrock, the program officer overseeing ONR’s research vessel program noted that it “... would cost about $8 million to make FLIP useable for another five or 10 years, but that funding could be better used elsewhere.”[12]

On August 3, 2023, the storied vessel departed for a scrap yard in Mexico, apart from an instrument boom which will be installed on a pier at Scripps.[13][14]

At the decomissioning, Scripps’ Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) Director Eric Terrill lauded the system and the spirit that inspired it, saying “FLIP set the stage for thinking big about what could be done with technology to enable new scientific discoveries ... It was built in an era of risk-taking; a spirit that we try to embrace to this day and encourage in the next generation of seagoing scientists.”



  1. ^ a b c d e "FLIP: History". Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Research Vessels". United States Navy, Office of Naval Research. Archived from the original on 14 April 2009.
  3. ^ a b c "FLIP: Description". Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Marine Physical Laboratory. Archived from the original on 7 September 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b Bronson, Earl D.; Glosten, Larry R. (October 1985). FLIP: FLoating Instrument Platform. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Marine Physical Laboratory. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  5. ^ Jean, Grace (22 June 2012). "Navy's Floating Research Platform 'Flips' for its 50th Anniversary". United States Navy, Office of Naval Research. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  6. ^ "Research Vessels: Surface Vessels - R/V FLIP". United States Navy, Office of Naval Research. Archived from the original on 27 January 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  7. ^ "All About F.L.I.P." Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  8. ^ Fisher, Fred (2002). FLIP - The World's Strangest Research Lab. YouTube.com. Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  9. ^ Ortiz-Suslow, D. G. (23 September 2021). "Remembering FLIP, an Engineering Marvel for Oceanic Research". Eos. Archived from the original on 5 August 2023. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  10. ^ a b "FLIP ship gets a lift from USNS Navajo". United States Navy, Military Sealift Command. October 2003. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  11. ^ "FLIP's Research Experience".
  12. ^ Lundquist, Edward (15 June 2021). "Will the Navy's FLIP Fade Away, or Find a Forever Home?". Seapower. Archived from the original on 5 August 2023. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  13. ^ "World's Strangest Research Vessel Heads for Scrapyard After 60 Years". The Maritime Executive. 8 August 2023. Retrieved 13 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Storied Research Platform is Retired". Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 8 August 2023. Retrieved 15 August 2023.

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