rp flip ship

The world’s strangest ship? It’s called RP Flip and is a unique research ship, created by the US Navy, which can sink under water and stand vertically.

3 mins read

RP Flip: the ship which sinks under water to study waves

A ship standing vertically in the middle of the ocean? Don’t panic, it’s not one of the most dramatic sea accidents in boating history, but a lab ship created and developed by the US Navy.

The vessel is called RP Flip (acronym of Floating Instrument Platform) and is a 355-foot (108-meter) research ship conceived by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The project was completed in 1962 but what we can see today is the result of the 1995 update.

As you can see in the video below, Flip is unique in the sense that it has the flexibility to stand vertically in the middle of the ocean. The entire shift of the ship from its horizontal to vertical position takes around 28 minutes.


RP Flip is used by the US Navy to study wave length, water temperature and density and for the collection of other relevant meteorological data. Because of the potential interference with the acoustic instruments, Flip has no engines or other means of propulsion and must be towed to open water to be moved from a spot to another. This way and thanks to its prismatic coefficient, it can reach up to 7-10 knots.

In order to ensure the correct functioning of data collection operations, every room on Flip has two doors: one to use when sailing, the other to use when the ship is vertical. Bunk beds, toilets and stoves are built on universal joints so that they can rotate with the boat and be available in all positions. During the flip, all passengers ( 16 at most, including 5 crew members and 11 scientists) have to move from the deck to the bulkhead which, in turn, becomes a new deck.

Flip can support research operations for up to 30 days. In order to make measurement position stable, it is equipped with 3 anchors. Of course, the structure of the boat enables it to minimize impact against waves.

Research operations are usually carried out in the ocean, off the western coast of the United States. So, if you ever find yourself in that area, keep your eyes peeled! You might see a ship standing out in the waters of the Pacific. It’s certainly an unusual, striking spectacle!

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