After Benjamin Linus moved the Island ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2"), a number of characters, mostly survivors of Flight 815, began experiencing a phenomenon wherein they would suddenly be transported to another point in time in the Island's history. The only warning the characters experienced that such an event was imminent was a distant ringing noise that would quickly build in intensity, culminating in a bright flash of white light as the transportation took place. The term time flash has been coined to describe this event.
FARADAY: The Island... Think of the Island like a record spinning on a turntable... only now, that record is skipping. Whatever Ben Linus did down at the Orchid station... I think... it may have... dislodged us.
Daniel Faraday described the survivors' situation as having become "unstuck in time" and likened what was happening to a record player that was continually skipping. ("Because You Left") It is not entirely clear why the time flashes began, but it was later revealed in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" that the frozen wheel had somehow slipped off its axis and was moving about erratically. When Locke reset the wheel on its axis, the time flashes ceased - leaving most of the survivors stuck in 1974. After it was over, Daniel described their situation as: "The record is spinning again, only we're not on the song we want to be on." ("LaFleur")
Other than the survivors of Flight 815, the only other individuals to experience the time flashes were Juliet, Charlotte, Miles, and Daniel Faraday. Oddly Juliet was the only one of the Others to be affected by the time flashes.
Blue = Realtime Red = Time flashes Yellow = PreCrash Orange = PostCrash Green = Desmond On-Island
- The time flashes took place at irregular intervals -- some only a few seconds apart, others days. Daniel indicated there was no way to determine how long it would be between time flashes.
- In the time flashes, the survivors were transported into seemingly random points in the Island's history. The earliest known time period they visited was some time before the Man in Black and his people built the wells on the Island, as evidenced in the episode "This Place Is Death". The latest known point they visited was very likely in their own future in 2007, as evidenced by the discovery of a water bottle from Ajira Flight 316.
- Objects or items that were being touched by those experiencing a time flash also traveled with them. Examples of some objects which were moved in the time shifts included the zodiac raft, one of the outrigger canoes, Hurley's guitar case, and a DHARMA van.
- The time shifts appeared benign at first, but gradually began taking a toll on the survivors. Daniel likened it to a severe case of jetlag that the body was not able to recover from. Symptoms began to appear: nosebleeds and headaches which would gradually increase in severity with each successive flash. Individuals who had spent the most time on the Island were affected first. Charlotte, who grew up on the Island, was one of the first to succumb. After each successive flash, her symptoms worsened and she collapsed. In several instances she did not appear to know where she was or what time period she was in. The time flash effect ultimately killed her and her body vanished as the survivors moved on in time. ("This Place Is Death")
Other time flashes
Turning the frozen wheel
An individual who rotated the frozen wheel was transported in both time and space in a flash of white light similar to the time flashes. Both Ben and Locke were transported to the "exit" in the Tunisian desert, as well as a number of years into their respective future.
In Ben's case, turning the wheel also moved the Island and its inhabitants to another location in space without any apparent change to their point in time, except for those affected by the time flashes.
In 2007, upon returning to the Island aboard Flight 316, Jack, Hurley, Kate, and Sayid experienced a solitary time-flash - moving them from the cabin of the plane to the surface of the Island in 1977. ("316") ("LaFleur") Interestingly only the four of them were transported - moving in both time and space, leaving Sun, Ben, and Frank Lapidus behind. It is not known why this time flash took place, although it occurred presumably when Flight 316 entered the Island's proximity.
Another time flash appeared to take place upon the detonation of the Jughead at the Swan site in 1977. The remaining time-shifting survivors were transported back to the "present" in 2007. ("LA X, Part 1") Again, there appeared to be a slight spatial transportation when this flash took place as well: Kate awoke to find herself in a tree while Sawyer and Jack were both found unconscious near the Swan site. Hurley, Sayid, Jin, and Juliet awoke exactly where they were, albeit 30 years in the future. It is unknown where Miles was. One of the DHARMA Initiative vans was similarly carried along for the ride along with Hurley's guitar case. It should be noted the guitar case was in the van, which Jin was touching.
- The Island itself appeared to be surrounded by some sort of time-shifting phenomenon. Objects or persons entering or leaving the Island sometimes underwent a shift forward or backward in time. Examples would include Daniel's payload experiment ("The Economist"), Ray's corpse washing ashore ("The Shape of Things to Come"), and Desmond and Sayid's experience leaving the Island aboard the helicopter. ("The Constant")
- The time travel experienced by Desmond and Minkowski in "The Constant" was quite different than the time flashes in that those involved merely an exchange of consciousness with a future or past self. There was no physical traveling in time. This exchange was also theorized to be caused by the time-shifting phenomenon around the Island upon someone who had been exposed to large amounts of radiation.
- Once the mental shifts began they took place randomly and with increasing frequency.
- The consciousness exchange could result in the same severe symptoms as the time flashes: nosebleeds, severe headaches, and eventually death.
- Years earlier off the Island, Daniel Faraday was also able to achieve the same consciousness-shifting effect in his experiments on rats and on his unfortunate girlfriend, Theresa Spencer. Although unaware of where and when she was, Theresa appeared to handle the shifts better than others as she was revealed to be still alive in 2007. Daniel was also able to achieve the same affect on himself to some limited degree, resulting in severe memory problems that were ultimately healed when he arrived on the Island. ("The Constant") ("The Variable")