Caretakers return from remote Hawaiian islands to changed world amid pandemic

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Imagine going on a months-long trip, and coming back to a changed world.

That’s exactly what happened to a group sent to the remote northwestern Hawaiian islands.

The crew of four was part of an effort by the state to maintain the fragile ecosystem of Kure Atoll.

They lived in isolation for eight months.

They said while they were getting updates on the pandemic, they were not prepared for how much of an impact it made on everyday life.

“Coming back I think we had plenty time to mentally prepare,” said Kure Atoll caretaker Matt Butschek II. “But it still very much a culture shock seeing masks on children playing, seeing it in the news and on commercials.”

“It’s always a little challenging coming off Kure because it is so remote,” said Kure Atoll caretaker Naomi Worcester. “And you’ve just been with the same in this case three people, four people for the last eight months. Sometimes even seeing somebody like another person is such a shock and then to actually come back. Ok. Well these are my closest, dearest friends, and we’re not even supposed to hug them.”

Two field teams go to Kure Atoll every year to clean up debris and remove invasive plants.

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