IMAGE: Jim Gray
AP file
This undated photo provided by Microsoft shows Jim Gray, 63, of San Francisco. The U.S. Coast Guard searched the waters off Northern California on Wednesday for Gray.
updated 1/31/2007 8:36:47 PM ET 2007-02-01T01:36:47

The Coast Guard searched the waters off Northern California on Wednesday for an award-winning computer scientist missing since a weekend sailing trip to scatter his mother's ashes at sea.

A cargo plane, a helicopter and six patrol boats have been scouring the Pacific since Monday for Jim Gray, who helped develop the technology behind popular computer mapping programs like Google Earth.

Gray, 63, of San Francisco, was last heard from on Sunday, the day he set out from San Francisco for the Farallon Islands, about 25 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The search was expanded Tuesday to cover nearly 16,000 square miles — from Monterey Bay to Oregon and more than 100 miles out to sea.

Gray, founder and manager of Microsoft's Bay Area Research Center in San Francisco, won the A.M. Turing Award — the "Nobel Prize of computer science" — in 1998 for research that paved the way for automatic teller machines, computerized airline reservations and online shopping.

Gray had planned the trip to scatter the ashes of his 97-year-old mother, who died last year. He had expected to return by Sunday evening.

He called his wife from his 40-foot yacht, Tenacious, to say he was sailing out of cell phone range, according to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Amy Marrs called Gray's disappearance a mystery because the weather was good, he was in good health and the boat was equipped with radios and flares. There were no distress signals.

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