Research Platform FLIP (FLoating Instrument Platform)

FLIP with a full Moon. Taken from the Melville, November 2013. Photo: Evan Walsh
R/P FLIP with a full Moon. Taken from the R/V Melville, November 2013. Photo: Evan Walsh


FLIP, the FLoating Instrument Platform, was not a ship, but a 355-foot-long research platform that can be deployed for oceanographic research. Designed by scientists at Scripps's Marine Physical Laboratory, FLIP was operated by Scripps Oceanography for the U.S. Navy. (FLIP was retired in August 2023.)

Normally docked with Scripps’s fleet in San Diego Bay, FLIP could be towed to out to sea in its horizontal position and then “flipped” 90 degrees so that 300 feet of its length are under water. This turned FLIP into a “spar buoy,” a tall, thin, weighty structure designed to be uniquely stable and resistant to wave motion.

FLIP was built in 1962 to help study long-range sound propagation for submarine warfare, but the platform supported research in geophysics, meteorology, physical oceanography, and other scientific fields. Its unique appearance and method of deployment also made it a worldwide curiosity and the subject of many documentaries.