Bizarre ‘flipping’ research ship turns 50

(Credit:
Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

You’d think a ship designed after a baseball bat would go over like a foul ball when it comes to seaworthiness, but research ship FLIP has been a hit since its launch 50 years ago.

The bizarre research vessel can go from a horizontal to vertical position while staying afloat and stable in heavy seas, even in 80-foot waves. That allows it to perform oceanographic research measurements with great accuracy.

“A ship rolls with storm waves, but FLIP is so stable it is almost immobile,” Scripps Institute of Oceanography engineer Eric Slater has said in recalling FLIP riding out a hurricane. “Waves hit it like a brick wall. We were literally thrown out of our chairs inside FLIP when the big waves hit.”

Operated by Scripps and owned by the U.S. Navy, the 355-foot FLIP was designed by Phillip Rudnick, Fred H. Fisher, and Fred N. Spiess, and first tested in July 1962 as part of an anti-submarine rocket program. It was recently shown off in the Pacific for its birthday.

It can pump 700 tons of seawater into the fat end of the baseball bat, submerging that part, while the other end rises. It takes some 20 minutes to flip.

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