Apr 30, 2013, 7:00AM EST
A one-of-a-kind vessel for a unique mission

 The Floating Instrument Platform (FLIP) is a non-self-propelled open ocean research vessel owned by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and operated by the Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  It was built in 1962 to study wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature, and water density.  It also collects meteorological data.  FLIP has a length of 355 feet and a beam of 26 feet.  The vessel is extremely unique in that it is designed to partially flood and rotate backward 90 degrees so that its bow sticks straight up in the air and its lower 320 feet extend underwater.  In this position, the vessel is extremely stable, largely unaffected by surface waves.  The research vessel can either be allowed to drift or it can use one or all three of its anchors to remain stationary.  Instruments, equipment, beds, etc. are mounted on swivels and gimbals so that they rotate with the vessel during the 20-minute transition process.  Compartments generally have two doors, one for use while the vessel is horizontal and another for use when it is vertical.  FLIP normally carries a crew of five and an eleven member scientific party.  Missions last between 30 and 45 days.   The vessel is equipped with three long booms for lowering specialized equipment into the ocean and for support of sophisticated meteorological and electronic equipment.  Although FLIP has operated in most parts of the marine world, it spends most of its time in the Pacific Ocean.  Vessels of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) are usually tasked with towing FLIP (at speeds of up to ten knots) from one location to another.  When in its vertical position, FLIP is sometimes mistaken for a merchant vessel that is in distress and about to sink. 

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H David Kaysen
FLIP was one of several vessels constructed to support the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1967. Another was SPAR, which was a similar concept. Neither FLIP nor SPAR show up in the Naval Vessel Register (NVR).
5/2/2013 3:33:37 PM
Dennis Bryant
Another manned spar buoy was the Bouee Laboratoire. Only FLIP continues in operation.
5/3/2013 7:58:39 AM