Parenting guru ice bound

Last updated 05:00 12/01/2014
Nigel Latta
Psychologist Nigel Latta

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Television personality Nigel Latta is renowned for his politically incorrect TV series and criminal psychology but Antarctica is his first love.

The 46-year-old Aucklander is due to fly to the icy continent on Tuesday on Antarctica New Zealand's media programme to film science documentaries.

"It's one of those places I've always thought I'm going to get to before I die. If I had to pick one place in the world to go to and I could go nowhere else, I would pick Antarctica, hands down."

While Latta's dreams of visiting Antarctica began as a child, a lecture about penguins during his zoology studies at Otago University in the late 1980s sealed it.

"I thought it sounded the most amazing thing."

He enrolled in a Masters in marine science because it included a field trip to Antarctica but was unaware he had to sign up for the trip when the two-year course began.

When he discovered his mistake a year later, it was too late and he missed out. "Yeah, typical me, I had an idea and didn't plan it out well," he says.

Afterwards, he turned to study psychology.

"First I was a crime guy and then I was a parenting guy."

But actually, he says, "I'm a science geek".

"I read lots of that stuff but it just hasn't been part of my day job."

During the past year, he has worked with Razor Films, which produced his Politically Incorrect Parenting Show, and Antarctica New Zealand to realise his dream.

NZ on Air is funding Latta's two one-hour documentaries for TV One, called Cold Science, which will screen this year. A director and cameraman will accompany him.

"We are quite looking forward to putting Antarctic science in people's living rooms."

He will arrive in Christchurch today and will get fitted out for Antarctic weather tomorrow before boarding the Hercules plane on Tuesday.

During his two-week stay, Latta hopes to visit the dry valleys and an Adélie penguin colony at Cape Bird as well as the historic huts of polar explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott.

To get into the zone, he is re-reading Shackleton's diary and plans a photo of himself in Shackleton's hut while holding the book.

"Shackleton is kind of my hero."

Latta's first adventure will be completing an Antarctic field skills course, which requires people to overnight outdoors in the shadow of Mt Erebus.

Latta has just returned from a summer camping trip with his wife and their two sons, aged 14 and 10.

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"I was lying there thinking, ‘the next time I'll be camping will be in Antarctica'."

But he'd rather sleep outside in a trench for the course.

"I'm not going to sleep in a polar tent if I can sleep out there and see Mt Erebus."

Life in a field camp also requires careful thought when attending to one's personal business but Latta's unfazed.

The management of human waste is one topic he plans to explore for the documentaries.

As his departure ticks closer, he can't wait for the moment he steps off the plane at Pegasus ice runway.

"It's only a few days now. You do have these little moments where you think, ‘Oh my god, I'll be standing in Antarctica'."

He intends to make the most of the continent's summer's 24-hour daylight.

"I'm just not going to sleep for a few weeks because it seems like a waste of time sleeping in Antarctica.

"I'm going to go like the clappers for two and a half weeks."

However, Latta secretly hopes Antarctica's notorious weather will mean he gets stuck down there longer.

"If we get snowed in and have to stay a month, that's fine."

- Sunday Star Times

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