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Update on Search for Jim Gray
Microsoft Research
February 16, 2007 2:00 PM PT

Feb. 16 update: The family and friends of Jim Gray announced today that they have decided to suspend the organized effort to search for him. They have consulted closely with the U.S. Coast Guard this week, reviewed all of the extensive search activities to date, and discussed possible scenarios for what could have happened to Jim, given that there still has been no sign of him or his sailboat. Based upon their best information and analysis, they do not believe that Jim’s sailboat could have out-sailed the reach of the search, whether it was under power, adrift, sailing under autopilot, or even sailing at best possible speed.

While we can still hope that he turns up safe, it’s fair to conclude at this point that continuing the search will not yield any significant new results. The family will continue to seek answers through private efforts, and any new information that comes to light will be investigated.

There is tremendous interest both inside and outside Microsoft in paying appropriate tribute to Jim. But his family believes it would be premature at this time to hold a memorial service, because it has been less than three weeks since he disappeared. We are respecting the family’s wishes.

This has been an extremely emotional time for all of us who consider Jim a colleague and a friend. The tremendous outpouring of support is a true testament to how many lives he has touched. We all miss him, and we continue to keep Jim and his family in our thoughts.

Feb. 7 update: Family, friends, and colleagues continue to volunteer time and resources to continue the search for Jim Gray. While they have yet to find any hard evidence of his whereabouts, they feel they have some promising leads and continue to follow up. A Web site, http://www.helpfindjim.com has been established to get the word out and to share information on the search. More than 6,000 volunteers are participating in search efforts.

A group called Friends of Jim also has announced that it is expanding the search to the west coast of Mexico, based upon an analysis of ocean currents and drift patterns, as well as estimations of how far his boat may have traveled in the time since his disappearance. Efforts include examination of satellite images of coastal areas and distribution of posters to Mexican marinas. Microsoft Research and Microsoft Mexico are helping to get the word out about the expanded search, through both the press and the Mexican computer-science community.

Feb. 1 update: In a 2 p.m. press conference, the Coast Guard announced that it would suspend its search for Jim Gray at sundown. The Coast Guard had resumed the search on the morning of Feb. 1, expanding the search area in the process, after having suspended the search the previous evening . For more information on the search, see http://www.uscgsanfrancisco.com/go/site/823 .

The search for Dr. Gray is being augmented by the grassroots efforts of individuals at Microsoft and in the whole computer-science community. A collection of them have established their own blog to coordinate their activities: http://www.openphi.net/tenacious .

Jim Gray
Jim Gray

“Jim is a friend, a colleague, and a man I deeply respect for his contributions to the field of computing — and to Microsoft,” said Rick Rashid, senior vice president and head of research at Microsoft Corp. “The huge outpouring of concern — and offers to help in any way with the search — by his friends and colleagues around the world are a tribute to the impact that Jim has on all of us. Although we’re concerned for his whereabouts, we remain optimistic and hopeful for Jim’s safe return.

“The extensive efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard, in conducting this search, is very much appreciated,” Rashid continued. “They deserve great praise for their thoroughness and diligence.”

Microsoft researcher and technical fellow Jim Gray is still missing after embarking on a solo boating trip from San Francisco this past Sunday, Jan, 28. His family contacted San Francisco authorities Sunday evening when he did not return as planned from the one-day sailing trip. The U.S. Coast Guard has just announced, at 2 p.m. PST Jan. 31, that the search for Dr. Gray will be called off at sundown tonight, after three days of searching and with resources from California, Oregon and Washington all assisting in the search.

Dr. Gray works out of Microsoft’s San Francisco-based research lab. He is the manager of Microsoft Research’s eScience Group and has been with the company for 11 years. His work focuses on using computers to analyze scientific data and on the related topics of databases and transaction processing. Dr. Gray has been active in building large-scale online databases such as TerraServer and SkyServer and also is working with the astronomy community to build a “worldwide telescope.” Recently he has been collaborating with the scientific community to build a worldwide digital library that integrates the entire world’s scientific literature and the data in one easily-accessible collection. Dr. Gray was awarded the A.M. Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize for computer science, in 1997 for his contributions to transaction processing.

A missing person’s report has been filed with the San Francisco Police, and an investigator is assigned to the case. Microsoft is cooperating fully with that investigation. Our thoughts remain with Dr. Gray and his family, and the entire Microsoft community hopes for Jim to return safely.

Press should contact Doug Free of Microsoft for additional information. He can be reached at dfree@microsoft.com or (650) 693-3790.

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