FLIP (Floating Instrument Platform) is the US Navy’s oldest, and most unusual, research vessel.
Commonly referred to as the FLIP ship, it is actually a 355ft long, spoon-shaped buoy which can be flipped from horizontal to a vertical position by pumping 700t of seawater into the ‘handle’ end whilst flooding air into the ‘cradle’, causing it to rise up out of the sea.
Once the 28 minute transformation from horizontal to vertical has taken place, 300m of the buoy are submerged underwater, keeping the 700 long-ton mass steady and making it perfect for researching wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and for the collection of meteorological data.
FLIP was created in 1962 by scientists Dr Fred Fisher and Dr Fred Spiess, who wanted a more stable space than a conventional research ship to study wave forms. The build was funded by the US Office of Naval Research (who still own the buoy) and the Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (who still operate it) and launched by The Gunderson Brothers Engineering Company of Portland, Oregon.
FLIP was given a $2m makeover in 1995 and currently resides in La Jolla, California, although it operates all over the world. The buoy has so far completed over 300 operations.