Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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The Engineering Marvel of the RV Flip

Have you ever seen a ship that can stand upright? The RV Flip is a unique vessel designed to do just that, offering a stable platform for conducting research in the underwater environment. This blog post delves into the history, purpose, and fascinating engineering behind this revolutionary ship.

The Birth of a Visionary Design:

The RV Flip was conceived in 1960 by Frederick H. Fisher, a researcher at the Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Mr Fisher’s project was funding by the Office of Naval Research and construction began in 1962.

RV Flip standing vertically
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)


The RV Flip’s unique design is specifically tailored to fulfill its primary purpose, which is to study underwater acoustics, specifically the effects of thermal gradients and ocean bottoms on sound waves. This research was initially part of the Navy’s SUBROC program.

Tim Schnoor, an ONR program officer, added that FLIP’s versatility and stability make it indispensable for various research endeavors, from studying wave height to investigating how heat is exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere​ (Amusing Planet)​​

Transition Process of the RV Flip:

RV Flip transitioning
RV Flip transitioning

The RV Flip’s transition from horizontal to vertical is a remarkable feat of engineering. The ship has a series of large ballast tanks located on both sides of its hull. These tanks can be filled with seawater or emptied using powerful pumps.

When transitioning to a vertical position, the pumps start filling the ballast tanks on one side of the ship with seawater. Once the tanks are filled, the ship begins to tilt and eventually reaches a 90-degree angle, with the previously horizontal deck becoming vertical.

Once in the vertical position, the submerged portion of the ship provides significant stability and resistance to waves, making it ideal for conducting research in rough seas. The entire transition process typically takes around 30 minutes.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

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