"Discharge" is a fan-made name given to the release or surge of electromagnetic energy that resulted from Desmond's triggering of the Swan station's fail-safe system. ("Live Together, Die Alone") Similar electromagnetic events also occurred when Ben turned the frozen wheel beneath the Orchid station, and in 1977 when the DHARMA Initiative drilled into the energy pocket at the Swan site thereby causing the Incident. ("There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3")  ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2") The different discharges have different effects, due in part to the differing energy levels at each site. ("The Variable")

The Incident[]

Main article: The Incident (event)

When Stuart Radzinsky disregarded Pierre Chang's warnings about drilling into a pocket of energy located below the Swan site in July 1977, he triggered a magnetic anomaly that had the same effect as a system failure in later years within the Swan. With a huge electromagnetic surge, metallic objects of increasingly larger size began being dragged across the ground and flying through the air into the drill shaft. Juliet was inadvertently dragged into the shaft by a chain that became tangled around her, but managed to detonate the hydrogen bomb at the bottom of the shaft. ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

After the Incident, the DHARMA Initiative had to arrange a special protocol at the Swan requiring two occupants to continuously enter the Numbers into a computer and select Execute every 108 minutes to prevent another incident. This act was described by Kelvin Inman as "saving the world." ("Orientation")  ("Live Together, Die Alone") Executive producers have clarified that "pressing the button" served to discharge an electromagnetic buildup, preventing a "global catastrophe". (Access: Granted)  ("Lost: The Answers")

Fail-safe activation[]

The fail-safe was a mechanism in the Swan station which, when triggered, would terminate the electromagnetic anomaly. As described by Kelvin, the fail-safe was the "only other way out" and turning the key would make it "all go away." After the destruction of the Swan's computer, the countdown timer reached zero and a system failure occurred. The magnetic force behind the sealed area of the station began to surge, forcing Desmond to activate the fail-safe system. ("Live Together, Die Alone")


External effects of the discharge, in chronological order ("Live Together, Die Alone")


The nature of the fail-safe and its repercussions are unclear. The discharge resulted in a blinding white glow covering the entire Island and the sky turning a violet color. The ground shook, as if an earthquake was occurring, and a painful buzzing sound was heard (like a blender, according to Hurley). The Swan itself apparently imploded, leaving nothing behind but a large crater in the ground and assorted debris. The event was powerful enough to lift or repel a number of objects, among them the heavy hatch door. It landed a considerable distance from its original location, narrowly missing Bernard and Claire at the beach camp. Locke, Desmond, and Eko survived the event, despite all three being inside the hatch at the time. ("Live Together, Die Alone")  ("Further Instructions")

In a deleted scene from "Exposé", Nikki reacted particularly drastically to the "purple sky," first by completely freaking out such Paulo had to calm her down, and subsequently by questioning her past behavior towards her fellow castaways. The event was subsequently referred to by the survivors variously as a "detonation," "implosion," "explosion," a "blowing up," or the "sky turning purple."

The Others later referred to it variously as an "anomaly," the "sky turning purple," or an "electromagnetic pulse." After the event, Tom said that the pulse shut down the Others's communications. Mikhail also said there was an electromagnetic pulse which knocked out the submarine's underwater beacon. ("Every Man for Himself")  ("Not in Portland")  ("Par Avion") It was later implied, however, that the communications disruption may have been unrelated to the discharge, as Ben had secretly ordered Greta and Bonnie at the Looking Glass station to jam all communications to and from the Island. ("Through the Looking Glass") Further evidence of this comes when Tom meets with Michael in New York weeks after the discharge, implying that Tom was still able to leave, and return to, the Island, and Ben is able to use the radio in his house to contact Michael on the freighter. ("Meet Kevin Johnson")


"Electromagnetic Anomaly Detected" in the tracking station ("Live Together, Die Alone")

The effects of this event were also detected by the men working for Penelope Widmore at the Antarctic tracking station. The discharge was reported there as an "Electromagnetic Anomaly". They apparently had missed a similar one previously (possibly a reference to the day Oceanic 815 crashed), and questioned whether it was another false alarm. ("Live Together, Die Alone")

Fail-safe effects[]

  • Charlie was close to the Swan's implosion, but apparently remembered nothing of the discharge. ("Live Together, Die Alone")
  • Locke woke up in the jungle, apparently unhurt, but initially unable to speak. ("Further Instructions")
  • Eko was knocked unconscious, leaving him helpless against a polar bear that dragged him into a cave. ("Further Instructions")  ("The Cost of Living")
  • On turning the fail-safe key, Desmond became unstuck in time, his mind re-experiencing events in his past. He awoke in the jungle with his clothes inexplicably missing - but later gained a limited ability of experiencing flashes or premonitions of the future. These appeared to cease upon Charlie's death. ("Flashes Before Your Eyes")
  • The high dose of electromagnetic energy that Desmond was exposed to after turning the fail-safe key seems to have contributed to the side effects he experienced after leaving the Island to travel to the freighter. This is suggested by Daniel asking if Desmond has been subjected to an intense dose of radiation or electromagnetic energy. ("The Constant")

Frozen wheel rotation[]


Ben turns the frozen wheel. ("There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3")


Locke fulfills his destiny and turns the frozen wheel. ("This Place Is Death")

The frozen wheel is an eight-spoked wheel set into the wall of a secret chamber located beneath the Orchid station, which was built roughly 2000 years before 2004, by the Man in Black. Ben turned the wheel, with great effort, causing a discharge similar to when Desmond turned the fail-safe key. Unlike the earlier event, however, this discharge caused the island to disappear. Ben indicated earlier that turning the wheel would cause the Island to "move." ("There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3")


When Ben turned the wheel a huge, blinding white glow surged outward to cover the entire Island. From a perspective well offshore, the Island appeared to vanish, leaving nothing but open sea behind. The Oceanic Six, Frank and Desmond were forced to crash-land their helicopter in the ocean. The remaining individuals on the Island, survivors aboard the Zodiac raft and Jin were "inside the radius" and were moved along with the Island. Ben himself was transported to Tunisia some ten months in the future. ("The Shape of Things to Come")  ("There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 & 3")

After Ben turned the wheel, the survivors, newcomers from the freighter and Juliet began to uncontrollably shift through time . ("Because You Left") The time shifts appeared benign at first, but began to have side effects - described by Daniel Faraday as similar to severe jetlag. People who had spent the most time on the Island were affected first, beginning to develop symptoms of headaches and progressively worse nosebleeds and hemorrhaging. Charlotte, who had lived the longest on the Island in her childhood, was eventually killed by time shifts. ("Because You Left")  ("This Place Is Death")

With the time shift symptoms becoming worse and worse with each flash, Locke took it upon himself to return to the Orchid -- where he learned from the Man in Black, in the form of Christian Shephard, that the time flashes were the effect of Ben turning the wheel. Realizing that the wheel had slipped off its axis, Locke set the wheel back in place - and, in turning it, was transported to Tunisia in 2007 (over 140 years into the future). The Island and the remaining survivors ceased time shifting and became permanently lodged in 1974. ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham")  ("LaFleur")