Flipping Out

 

Everyday scientific work is rarely exciting, though it can be fun if you like that sort of thing. Occasionally it takes you to remote or unusual places: near Johnston Atoll in the Pacific or Yuma Proving Ground in August. But sometimes it’s the mode of transport that is unusual. There are few ships as unusual as R/P FLIP, a vessel that can operate horizontally or vertically. FLIP is towed out to sea by a tug in the horizontal position, looking like a slightly weird ship. Once on station, it is flipped up into a vertical position, everything is turned on its side. A wall becomes the floor and the ceiling becomes a wall.

This is a picture of FLIP’s bridge before flipping. That chair is going to have to be secured.

A few years ago, it was my pleasure to do an experiment on FLIP in the waters off San Diego, between San Clemente and Santa Catalina islands. We were going to be shining a laser into the water so they built a periscope just for us. The window in this picture would end up being about 60 ft. below the water line.

Since everything was going to flip, we had to build our lab after we were towed out to sea and break it back down again before being towed back to San Diego. Everything you see inside the plywood structure, including the structure itself, had to be assembled and disassembled at sea. Well, everything except me. I remained fully assembled throughout the cruise.

This is a closer look inside our lab. Isn’t the laser a pretty color?

We had only been taking data for about a day before the Navy chased us off. Turns out they were doing some exercises off San Clemente Island and we were getting in their way. When a warship tells you to get lost, you do.

We had to pack it all up in a big hurry and flip back. San Clemente Island is in the background:

We were towed back to port as night fell.

Here’s proof positive that I’ve completely flipped, as if you didn’t already know it.

Published in Science & Technology
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Members have made 24 comments.

  1. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    That is wonderful. Thank you. Wow. Loved it.

    • #1
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:22 pm
    • Like4 likes
  2. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Flipped not once, but twice, once up, once down.

    • #2
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:23 pm
    • Like3 likes
  3. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):
    That is wonderful. Thank you. Wow. Loved it.

    Thanks. Just weird enough to be interesting but not too weird, eh?

    Arahant (View Comment):
    Flipped not once, but twice, once up, once down.

    So maybe Flipping Out was a bad title. How about Flip Flopping?

    • #3
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm
    • Like6 likes
  4. Profile photo of Z in MT Member

    Cool. Interesting to see there is another laser jock on Ricochet.

    • #4
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm
    • Like4 likes
  5. Profile photo of Trink Reagan

    drlorentz: I’ve completely flipped

    This was flipping awesome!

    • #5
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm
    • Like7 likes
  6. Profile photo of Anamcara Member

    Loved it. Thank you.

    • #6
    • May 18, 2017 at 3:57 pm
    • Like3 likes
  7. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    Reminds me of similar missions on experimental craft in San Diego and out in the blue water. Beautiful sailing. Coming back into the bay at the end of the day was spectacular. Good thing our craft was similar to a catamaran, as we skimmed right over a large sunfish. Saw pods of pilot whales and actually rammed a gray whale, who took it pretty well, although he swam in circles for a while. We were told never to speak of that incident by our Naval liaison officer. I was in charge of the non-eyesafe laser rangefinder. Science and fun. Good times. Thanks for sharing yours, good Dr.

    • #7
    • May 18, 2017 at 4:02 pm
    • Like5 likes
  8. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    Reminds me of similar missions on experimental craft in San Diego and out in the blue water. Beautiful sailing.

    Beautiful days, great night skies. I took this picture about 500 miles WSW of Oahu. We hadn’t seen land for a few days. Good fishing off the stern.

    • #8
    • May 18, 2017 at 4:57 pm
    • Like6 likes
  9. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    I was in charge of the non-eyesafe laser rangefinder.

    Isn’t that the best kind? I always follow the advice on this warning sign.

    • #9
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm
    • Like9 likes
  10. Profile photo of TeamAmerica Member

    I just hope that your use of a laser didn’t require tying Sean Connery to a table, or assisting Dr. Evil’s plan to demand a ransom of ONE-MILLION-DOLLARS!

    • #10
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:02 pm
    • Like7 likes
  11. Profile photo of Pugshot Member

    So, if you had been flung into the sea during the transition from horizontal to vertical, you would have been “flipped off.” [Okay, sorry about that!]

    • #11
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm
    • Like6 likes
  12. Profile photo of Kay of MT Member

    That was sooo interesting! Thank you.

    • #12
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:22 pm
    • Like3 likes
  13. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    We were told never to speak of that incident by our Naval liaison officer.

    So, he should have said, “Never type it, either!”

    • #13
    • May 18, 2017 at 5:23 pm
    • Like4 likes
  14. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    TeamAmerica (View Comment):

    I just hope that your use of a laser didn’t require tying Sean Connery to a table, or assisting Dr. Evil’s plan to demand a ransom of ONE-MILLION-DOLLARS!

    No, but I have one simple request:

    • #14
    • May 18, 2017 at 6:45 pm
    • Like4 likes
  15. Profile photo of RightAngles Member

    You have a much more interesting life than I do.

    • #15
    • May 18, 2017 at 7:22 pm
    • Like1 like
  16. Profile photo of Trinity Waters Thatcher

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):
    I was in charge of the non-eyesafe laser rangefinder.

    Isn’t that the best kind? I always follow the advice on this warning sign.

    I love this! Big favorite. 1064nm.

    • #16
    • May 18, 2017 at 9:31 pm
    • Like2 likes
  17. Profile photo of WillowSpring Member

    Wow! really amazing. Thanks for posting.

    So far this morning, two amazing posts about things I never knew about. Ricochet is amazing

    • #17
    • May 19, 2017 at 5:16 am
    • Like4 likes
  18. Profile photo of Western Chauvinist Member

    Very cool. Had no idea something like this existed. I ♥ the USA!

    • #18
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:11 am
    • Like3 likes
  19. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    You have a much more interesting life than I do.

    Anyone who has had a teenager at home had more interesting experiences than FLIP.

    • #19
    • May 19, 2017 at 10:00 am
    • Like1 like
  20. Profile photo of jzdro Member

    drlorentz: Once on station, it is flipped up into a vertical position, everything is turned on its side.

    Hi drlorentz:

    Why do this?

    • #20
    • May 19, 2017 at 4:40 pm
    • Like0 likes
  21. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    jzdro (View Comment):

    drlorentz: Once on station, it is flipped up into a vertical position, everything is turned on its side.

    Hi drlorentz:

    Why do this?

    Hi. Fair question. Two reasons:

    1. When FLIP is vertical it doesn’t move around much, even in rough seas compared to an ordinary ship. This is the original reason this thing was built.
    2. It provides a convenient way to put stuff deep underwater from a surface platform. Our periscope went down 60 feet or so. You can see that rather skinny tube attached to the much larger-diameter hull of FLIP in the second picture. Without something big like the hull, that skinny periscope would have had to be a lot beefier.
    • #21
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:24 pm
    • Like3 likes
  22. Profile photo of Arahant Member

    #1 is the same reasoning as behind SWATH hull designs.

    • #22
    • May 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm
    • Like2 likes
  23. Profile photo of drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):
    #1 is the same reasoning as behind SWATH hull designs.

    I was hoping to use the R/V Kilo Moana for an experiment but ended up with the R/V KoK, which was not nearly as nice. I heard the food was better on the former as well. Both are based in Honolulu.

    • #23
    • May 19, 2017 at 7:21 pm
    • Like3 likes
  24. Profile photo of Rodin Member

    I have been on board FLIP while in port. I was taking a tour with the director as I was at the research facility on other business. Fascinating.

    • #24
    • May 20, 2017 at 11:19 am
    • Like1 like