A historic passenger jet flight from Australia to Antarctica touched down smoothly on a blue ice runway 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.

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.

The runway, which is four kilometres (2.5 miles) long, 700 metres wide and moves about 12 metres southwest a year because of glacial drift, was carved out of the ice and levelled using laser technology.

The 46 million dollar (41 million US) runway took more than two years to build and is designed to bring scientists and other Australian Antarctic Division staff to the frozen continent to study issues such as climate change.

There’s a news video and photo gallery here.