Not Sailing

I don’t spend much time thinking about boats or marine research these days, as I gave up on the marine biologist dream when I was 9 years old and found out the plesiosaur was extinct. But when I run across a boat as weird as the RP FLIP, as happened to me today, my brain goes into overdrive and it’s all I can think about. I’ve fallen into an information hole, so won’t you join me?

The Reserach Platform FLoating Instrument Platform was originally built in 1962, and has served as a mobile platform for observing and testing various oceanic properties ever since. Its initial purpose was to research undersea sound waves, which required it to be very wave stable.

The FLIP is a 355 foot long boat that can fill the front 300 feet with water ballast. Once full, the boat will upend 90 degrees with the aft 55 feet of boat acting as a vertical platform out of the water. When flipped, FLIP acts something like a spar buoy with most of its ballast well below the surface. The surrounding water at these depths is not influenced by surface waves, so the vessel remains as stable as it needs be. Sometimes it is anchored to the ocean floor, but in many instances FLIP can float freely.

Which explains why the floors are walls and the walls are floors. And why the bathroom needs two sinks.

Read on thanks to Jalopnik. Title inspiration thanks to Flipper.