The search for Jim Gray

From the New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 2 — When James Gray failed to return home from a sailing trip on Sunday night, Silicon Valley’s best and brightest went out to help find him.

After all, Dr. Gray, 63, a Microsoft researcher, is one of their own.

The United States Coast Guard, which started a search Sunday night, suspended it on Thursday, after sending aircraft and boats to scour 132,000 square miles of ocean, stretching from the Channel Islands in Southern California to the Oregon border. Teams turned up nothing, not so much as a shard of aluminum hull or a swatch of sail from Dr. Gray’s 40-foot sailboat, Tenacious.

In the meantime, as word swept through the high-technology community, dozens of Dr. Gray’s colleagues, friends and former students began banding together on Monday to supplement the Coast Guard’s efforts with the tool they know best: computer technology.

The flurry of activity, which began in earnest on Tuesday, escalated as the days and nights passed. A veritable Who’s Who of computer scientists from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, NASA and universities across the country spent sleepless nights writing ad hoc software, creating a blog and reconfiguring satellite images so that dozens of volunteers could pore over them, searching for a speck of red hull and white deck among a sea of gray pixels.

Coast Guard officials said they had never before seen such a concerted, technically creative effort carried out by friends and family of a missing sailor. “This is the largest strictly civilian, privately sponsored search effort I have ever seen,” said Capt. David Swatland, deputy commander of the Coast Guard sector in San Francisco, who has spent most of his 23-year career in search and rescue…

Jim’s home page is here.

If you want to help, Werner Vogels, Amazon’ CTO, explains how. Thanks to Tony Hirst for the link.