An historic passenger jet flight from Australia to Antarctica touched down smoothly on a blue ice runway on Friday, launching the only regular airlink between the continents.
Some half a century since the idea of a runway on Antarctica was first raised, the Airbus A319 from Hobart landed at Wilkins near the Australian Antarctic Division's Casey Station, an AFP photographer on board said.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who was among some 20 officials, scientists and media on the inaugural flight, said the view from the cockpit was breathtaking as the plane approached Antarctica.
"To see the icebergs, the small amount of settlement here and nothing as far as you could see in every direction and then this runway appears as if from out of nowhere," said the former Midnight Oil frontman.
"It's a remarkable engineering feat these people have achieved. It's a logistical triumph and connects the last two continents to be linked by air," he said.
"This is a very big occasion, it certainly is historic. A new era will unfold for us in terms of looking after our planet."
The runway, which is four kilometres long, 700 metres wide and moves about 12 metres south-west a year because of glacial drift, was carved out of the ice and levelled using laser technology.
"The runway here is a lot smoother than a lot of runways at international airports around the world," said pilot Garry Studd.