The FLIP Research Vessel (“Floating Instrument Platform”) is designed to go from horizontal to vertical by submerging over 300 feet of the total 350 foot length of the ship.
Once this ship is dragged out to its destination, the ballast fills with seawater and the ship rotates into a “standing position.” Now, you can bet that’s one freakin’ weird sensation.
Leave it to the US Navy to come up with this strange, strange concept. The concept actually became a reality in 1962. The original design was developed by the Marine Physics Laboratory, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the University of California at San Diego.
Why in the world would the Navy be interested in this sort of thing? The original idea was to use the FLIP to study “long-range sound propagation.” Since the FLIP is now used to study underwater acoustics, I assume that “sound propagation” is something similar. It’s probably related to SONAR.
If you’re interested in seeing something like this at work, there are some great videos online that show the transition from the horizontal to the vertical position. The rotation takes about twenty minutes from start to finish. Once the transition is complete, the FLIP takes on its role as a research platform – allowing the cranes and other machinery located at the top of the ship to be fully utilized.
With 300 of the FLIP’s total 350 feet underwater, the platform is incredibly stable – stable enough to withstand 30 foot swells in rough seas. Although the ocean can be one of the most powerful forces in nature, most of that power resides on the surface. All the energy of waves and swells starts to diminish the deeper you go under the surface. (Which is probably the reason submarines never have to worry about storm warnings.)
The FLIP design seems like the type of thing they’ll use to rebuild the lost city of Atlantis — or maybe just one of the Lilypad cities we took a look at a while back. And, heck, if you go for a cruise on the FLIP, make sure you take your water wings with you — or maybe just one of the water-powered jet packswe also reported on not too long ago.
The FLIP is pretty astounding to see in action. Kudos to the design folks for really thinking outside of the box on this one. If they follow along this train of thought, it’ll just be the tip of the iceberg. (Pun intended).