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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 12:35 GMT
In pictures: Antarctic ice runway

Passengers, scientists, government officials and ground crew walk on the ice runway

An historic flight between Australia and the Antarctic has touched down on a newly-built ice runway, launching the first regular air link between the continents.

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett in front of the plane on the runway

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who was on board the flight, hailed the Wilkins Runway as ushering in a "new era" in terms of looking after the planet.

An igloo toilet facility at the glacial runway

Although some of the runway facilities are basic, with igloos for toilets, Australian scientists can now make the trip in less than five hours, revolutionising their work.

Two pilots in the cockpit of the plane as it flies into the midnight sun.

Pilot Garry Studd (R) said he had no problems landing the Airbus A319 on ice. He found the 4km laser-levelled runway smoother than those at many international airports.

Passengers, scientists, government officials and ground crew pose in front of the

Eight resident scientists travelled 65km (50 miles) from Australia's remote Casey research base to greet the visitors in the midnight sun and temperatures of -17C.

An aerial view of the Australian Antarctic research base at Casey

Before the introduction of the weekly flight from Hobart, which is not open to tourists, researchers had to spend several weeks at sea to reach Casey.

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