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2/2/2007
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Mystery Deepens As Coast Guard Ends Search For Microsoft's Jim Gray

The Coast Guard has called off its five-day search for database expert James Gray, missing since sailing solo out of San Francisco last Sunday.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard late Thursday (Feb. 1) called off its five-day search for missing computer scientist James Gray, but friends and family kept up the hunt using private planes and satellite technology.

Gray, 63, an A.M Turing Award winner and an acknowledged expert in database systems, hasn't been seen since he sailed west from here Sunday morning, intent on scattering his mother's ashes near the Farallon Islands. Weather conditions have been good around San Francisco most of the week.

The search covered an area of some 100,000 square miles and hasn't uncovered any debris or other evidence of Gray or his 40-foot, red-hulled boat named "Tenacious."

"I personally don't remember this ever happening before," Coast Guard Capt. David Swatland told a news conference Thursday.

Swatland said a red sailboat was seen near Farallons, about 20 miles west of the Golden Gate on Sunday. There also were reports that Gray's PDA synched with an antenna device Sunday night around 7:30 p.m. local time, but no location was determined.

Still, family and friends have not given up the search and have pressed into service several aircraft to continue the ocean search. NASA's Ames Research Center said it may deploy one of its Lockheed ER-2 Earth Resources surveillance plans in the search. Employees of Google Earth also have pored over satellite maps of the area looking for evidence of Gray's boat.

Gray joined Microsoft 10 years ago Gray, after working as an industrial researcher and software designer at IBM and Tandem. He won the ACM Turing Award in 1998 for his work on transaction processing.

Gray is widely recognized as one of computing's leading lights. He discussed computing and storage trends in a 2003 interview with another computing wizard, David Patterson of the University of California at Berkeley.

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