I've already been nicknamed Jeffery. Now, Jeffery, I should mention, is the ship's jack-of-all-trades. In 2009 I sailed with him and Algalita to the Pacific Garbage Patch and Captain Dale decided I just might be as helpful as Jeff. Well, I can tell you right now that I don't know how to repair a broken sail by myself, nor do I feel comfortable diving underwater to remove a wad of derelict fishing net that is caught in the motor (Jeff has done both of these things by the way).

But I do know how to paint a picture of the trip. From describing the colorful characters on board to taking underwater photos, my time on this voyage will be devoted to documenting everything I see. The purpose of this trip is to examine plastic pollution in the ocean--by dragging a fine mesh net behind the boat to catch plastic particles and by opening up fish to see if their stomachs contain plastic.

And sailing is something I've done before. In 2009 I spent four weeks on Algalita's 50-foot catamaran to take photos and write an article for The New York Times. It was a thrilling experience and I was able to take my first underwater photos and blog and tweet from the middle of the ocean.

This voyage to Rarotonga in the Southern Cook Islands will take much less time--about five days. We'll do a majority of the sampling and trawling en route. Once we arrive the second leg of our voyage begins.

During this part of the trip (May 16-26) we'll be looking at the effects of increased nitrate and sulphate levels in Rarotonga’s Aitutaki Lagoon. The change in chemical composition is due to fertilizer run off, run off from a pig farm and from septic tank overflows.  We’ll have a water specialist on board to analyze the samples and give us fairly instant results.


It's going to be an adventure so stay tuned!

Editor’s note: The South Pacific Islands Survey is part of a larger multiyear expedition run by Pangaea Exploration, a nonprofit that investigates the health of marine life through exploration, conservation and educational outreach. The expedition focuses on marine debris, water quality, habitat conditions and overfishing in the world’s oceans. Specific emphasis is placed on the five gyres, or the five areas with the highest accumulation of plastic pollution.

About the Author: Lindsey Hoshaw is a freelance environmental journalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe and Forbes, among others. In her spare time she moonlights as a garbologist studying people and the things they throw away. Follow her on Twitter @thegarbagegirl.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.