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In Search of Jim Gray

I know Jim Gray.

Well, I don't know him personally, but I have watched his presentations at numerous conferences, and thank him often for his ground-breaking work in transactional database design. Business works today, in part, because of that core work.

Jim Gray went Missing At Sea on January 28, 2007, after setting out on a solo voyage from San Francisco Bay for the Farallon Islands, some 25 miles out. It's February 6 as I write this. Jim and his 40-foot sailboat have not been found.

With the Coast Guard giving up on the search, the high tech community has stepped up to do what they can to assist. In particular, has uploaded recent satellite images of the 3,500 square mile search area and has set up a Mechanical Turk activity to harness the power of Internet users to identify a small boat in a large sea. Each user is asked to review an image and try to spot Jim's boat within that patch of sea.

Werner Vogels, CTO of, asks for our help and covers the Amazon Mechanical Turk effort well.

I spent the day today helping to complete the effort. Today, we reviewed the remaining few thousand satellite images. While I did find a few images that may have had a small sailboat on them, the best I could find was the following:

Pretty tough to spot a 40-foot sailboat from outer space! That white blip is likely a cloud. But who knows. I forwarded this one, and a few others, on to the experts for further review.

When the final images had been reviewed, I received the following message from Amazon:

Thank You for Helping Search for Jim Gray.

On behalf of everyone involved in the ongoing search for Jim Gray, thank you.

The efforts of the Mechanical Turk community during the last several days have been remarkable. Your work has contributed to one of the largest volunteer search efforts ever.

During the last 5 days, Mechanical Turk workers looked at more than 560,000 images from 3 satellites, covering nearly 3,500 square miles of ocean. A group of experts is currently reviewing the images that workers identified, and sending their results to the appropriate authorities.

More information about the search is available at:

This is an amazing example of the power of the people. When technology is put to a very good and noble use.

Many thanks to and all the volunteers that have been helping to find Jim. I am certainly praying for a miracle ending to this story.

As you may know, I spent 7 years doing mountain Search and Rescue in Colorado. This is the strangest search that I have ever contributed to. I was very happy to do so.

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  1. jim gray's sister lives in mexico

  2. [...] February, I wrote an article about participating in the search for Jim Gray. Wired Magazine has just released a most excellent article about Jim Gray and the search. [...]


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