Fish out of Water


Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) was landlocked for about a week in early April when it went into dry dock at Point Loma’s submarine base for some routine maintenance.

FLIP’s tune-up included a thorough inspection of the ship’s entire structure as well as application of a new anti-fouling paint to keep algae and seaweed from growing on the hull.

This was the first time FLIP had been in dry dock for about five years, a process which involves the flooding and sinking of a large u-shaped dock, into which the 355-foot long, 700- ton FLIP is pulled with lines and tugboats. Skin divers then pump air into the ballast tanks of the sunken dry dock, which lifts it back out of the water with FLIP on top.

So how’s FLIP holding up? Scripps physical oceanographer Rob Pinkel, who makes regular use of the one-of-a-kind platform for his research, believes that at 44 years old, FLIP is in better condition now than it was in the 1970s.

“FLIP is such an unusual structure, it’s taken some learning over the years to know how to best maintain it,” said Pinkel. “But by now the weak points have been fixed, and FLIP is getting very good care.”

With maintenance complete, FLIP is now back in the water at its home base, the Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma.

-Shannon Casey

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