Image: Jim Gray
Microsoft
Prominent computer scientist Jim Gray disappeared on a boating trip from San Francisco in January.
updated 2/7/2007 8:55:38 PM ET 2007-02-08T01:55:38

Friends of an acclaimed computer scientist who vanished at sea said Wednesday they were expanding their search for him to waters off Mexico, nearly a week after the Coast Guard called off its own search.

Colleagues of Jim Gray, 63, have been combing satellite images of Mexico's Baja California coast for any sign of the Microsoft engineer and his 40-foot yacht, Tenacious. They are also distributing posters of Gray and his boat at Mexican marinas.

(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)

"There were supplies on the boat and Jim's an able sailor," said friend Mike Olson. "It's entirely possible he could still be out there."

Gray, whose pioneering research on databases paved the way for innovations such as automated teller machines and online shopping, set out from San Francisco late last month to scatter his mother's ashes around the Farallon Islands, about 25 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

No trace of sailor
The Coast Guard scoured some 132,000 square miles of the Pacific over four days without finding a trace of Gray or his boat. The agency looked as far south as the Channel Islands, just off Santa Barbara.

Weather and ocean-current data suggest that Gray likely would have traveled south, whether he sailed that direction or drifted, Olson said.

"The experts at the Coast Guard tell us we almost certainly would have seen debris if (Gray) went down," Olson said. "It's likely the boat's still above water."

Searchers are also using technology developed by online retailer Amazon.com to enlist more than 6,000 volunteers to examine about 100,000 digital photographs taken from space covering nearly 3,500 square miles of ocean.

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