An air-link between Australia and the Antarctic was officially opened with the aircraft returning home safely Friday morning from a journey to the Wilkins runway near Casey Station in the Antarctic, making a historic step in aviation - using the world's longest runway and one that is made of ice.
The aircraft carrying nine scientists, the environment minister and some media left Hobart, the capital of Australia's southern island state Tasmania, on Thursday evening and four-and-a-half hours later it touched down in the Antarctic.
Environment Minster Peter Garrett was the first to step on the ice, braving the minus 16 degrees Celsius temperatures.
"What really strikes me here is what an historic occasion this is, that we've flown down to this amazing continent where Australia has had an historical connections and science connections for generations," the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) quoted the minister as saying in the Wilkins.
The success of this flight will clear the way for more scientists to fly south to expand their research in the Antarctic.
Until now, scientists and expeditioners have had to go there by boat. This may take weeks and the trip is often rough, and in wild seas.