LOST AT SEA is an epic tale of the ocean, following one young man’s personal journey to understand his father, Peter Bird, one of Britain’s forgotten sporting heroes. 

In 1983 Peter Bird became the first person to row the Pacific Ocean single-handed. Crossing 8000 treacherous miles in a 29 foot row-boat, with no support vessel, was an achievement comparable to Hillary and Tenzing’s ascent of Everest thirty years earlier. At the time, Peter Bird became an international celebrity and hero of the ocean-rowing community.

Over the next 15 years Peter continued to set new ocean-rowing records, such as the record for the longest time a person has ever spent alone at sea. Away for nearly a year at a time, Peter survived Force 9 gales, week-long cyclones and ocean currents that meant he end up going in circles for weeks on end.

In 1991 Peter, and his partner Polly, had a son, Louis. Despite this, Peter continued to go away to sea. But on a 1996 crossing, he disappeared at sea. His empty boat, with film camera still attached, was recovered, but Peter was never found. Louis was just 4 years old at the time.

This film follows Louis’s attempt to piece together his father’s life, a father he hardly knew. It is a dramatic tale of obsession and extreme isolation, and an intimate exploration of a mother and son coming to terms with feelings of loss and abandonment, while trying to deal with a legacy of trauma that ran through their family for generations. 


Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF): Special Jury Mention 2021 

Director Johnny Burke has brilliantly captured the intensely personal history of first time adventurer Louis Bird in his film Lost at Sea. This film beckons you in with its fine editing, engaging interviews and quirky archival footage but you stay captivated and longing for more once you realize that the soul searching path followed by Bird is more about the healing journey than the destination. This raw and brutally honest documentary sets a new bar for the adventure film genre. For exceptional craftsmanship and outstanding narrative, the 2021 is honoured to acknowledge Johnny Burke with a Special Jury Mention.

— Joanna Croston – VIMFF 2021 Jury Member