Stefan Helmreich is Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of
Flipping the Ship: Oriented Knowledge, Media, and Waves in the Field, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Sited at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in La Jolla, California, the chapter is concerned with science in the field—at shore and sea—and organizes its account one of oceanography's most storied vessels: the FLoating Instrument Platform (FLIP). It is a craft that can “flip” itself vertically to become a live-aboard buoy that stays stationary amid rolling wave fields. Scientists, seeking fixed positions for observation, try to hold still frames within which they read waves, flipping between orientations to science as objective and as a source of wonder and between visions of science as pure or applied, civil or military. The chapter offers a history of Scripps scientists reading waves through analogies to media (sonic, filmic, infrared, biotic), a history that also tracks generational shifts among physical oceanographers from military motivations to concerns with climate and contamination.