During the past 20 years, vessels have often diverted their courses to aid what appeared to be a sinking ship. What they found as they steamed closer, though, was—and still is—an exceptionally stable ocean-going research vessel. Its ability to tip from the conventional horizontal position to a vertical one makes the ship both a stable research platform and a startling sight.

The Floating Instrument Platform, better known as FLIP, is the result of a quest during the late 1950's for a ship that would enable oceanographers to perform accurate underwater acoustic experiments. The motion of conventional research ships rolling with the ocean's movements makes such work difficult. Allyn Vine of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution suggested a vessel that has the stability of a long, narrow, buoyant object that floats with the long dimension vertical, as does a spar buoy. Under the direction of Fred Spiess, with the support of the Office of Naval Research, the Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography adapted the spar buoy design idea to the floating platform. Frederick H. Fisher, then a research physicist at MPL and now a research oceanographer and associate director, was the project officer. He, with the assistance of Spiess, the now late Philip Rudnick, and Charles ‘Bud’ Mundy, was largely responsible for developing the shape, size, and capabilities of the vessel. After final design, engineering, and construction, FLIP was launched on June 22, 1962. A ceremony at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography marked its 20th anniversary.