His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery has officially opened Wilkins Runway in Antarctica, describing it as a remarkable feat of ice engineering.

The Governor-General spoke to Wilkins crew via telephone link from Australian Antarctic Division headquarters near Hobart, after his visit to the runway was cancelled due to bad weather.

General Jeffery said that the opening of the runway, near Casey station, marked an important development in Australia’s engagement with Antarctica.

“It is fitting that it is named after Sir George Hubert Wilkins, one of the great pioneers of polar exploration and aviation. He encountered many of the same perils that face our Antarctic aviators today — ferocious wind, ice and snow blizzards and absolute isolation,” he said.

General Jeffery applauded the work of scientists and support staff working in Antarctica, and said that the ease and speed with which many could now reach Antarctica do their work would have major benefits.

“The Antarctic, as you would all well understand, offers us great insights into climate, particularly as we strive to understand the drivers and impacts of climate change.

“You are doing great work, on behalf of the nation, with far reaching implications for the survival of the planet. A sincere thank you to you all,” he said.