New Zealand's ties with Antarctica have been strengthened by the unveiling of a pou whenua, or carved post, at Scott Base.
The two-metre tall pou whenua was unveiled at a short ceremony at the base on Sunday morning, amid gently falling snow and sub-zero temperatures. A new Maori-designed Scott Base sign was also unveiled.
They are a stone's throw from the well-photographed AA directions sign in front of the base.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister John Key, Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon, master weaver Ranui Ngarimu and US representatives from nearby McMurdo Station as well as most of the Scott Base staff.
Sir Mark said it was an honour to be asked to provide the carving, by Fayne Robinson. The use of wood from the same source being used to construct a meeting house at Arahura on the West Coast, would form a backbone with Antarctica.
The "navigator of the heavens" pou whenua, with one face pointing to the sky and another to the South Pole, was carved on behalf of all Maori, he said.
There were old traditions among Ngai Tahu - the southernmost iwi - of a land of ice, which could be Antarctica or even other areas, Sir Mark said.
He said it was not a claim by Maori on Antarctica, but admitted it could help any New Zealand sovereignty claims in the future.
He was confident the wood would survive the extremely harsh Antarctic weather.
"I am the eternal optimist and I am going to say of course it is, it's here forever, it is incredibly strong wood, so only time will tell."
Scott Base asset management team leader Johno Leitch said it was a hugely significant step in the base's history.
"It's a great link for us back to New Zealand and Maori culture."
The 1m-deep foundations were dug into the permafrost with jackhammers over a few days and laid with concrete left over from a wind farm.
He was confident the pou whenua would stand up to the weather.
The historic huts used by explorers had withstood a century of Antarctic weather, which had brought out the beauty of the cedar, he said.
"It'll have a natural ageing process, so we will watch with interest how it develops."
Antarctica NZ chief executive Lou Sanson said the pou whenua came about after staff at the base said they felt there was not enough of New Zealand and Maori culture represented at the base.
Two tukutuku panels honoured Scott Base leaders, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, the four New Zealanders from the base who had lost their lives, and also the 257 victims of the 1979 Mt Erebus air crash, he said.