The discharge was the release of electromagentic energy that resulted from Desmond's triggering of the Swan station's fail-safe mechanism. (2x23) The nature of the fail-safe and the repercussions that resulted from its triggering are unclear; however, the discharge resulted in a bright purple light seen across the Island and the implosion of the the Swan, leaving nothing but a large crater in the earth and assorted debris. The event is referred to by the survivors variously as a "detonation", "implosion", "explosion", a "blowing up", or the "sky turning purple". The Others have referred to it variously as an "anomaly", the "sky turning purple", and an "electromagnetic pulse".
The fail-safe was a mechanism in the Swan station which, when triggered by the turning of a key, would terminate the electromagnetic buildup which the protocol was meant to periodically discharge safely. Kelvin explained to Desmond that it was the "only way out", and that it would make it "all go away". After Locke prevented the button from being pushed by destroying the Swan computer, the countdown timer reached zero and a system failure occurred within the Swan. Severe electromagnetic effects then began to occur inside the hatch, leading Desmond to activate the fail-safe mechanism, which in turn destroyed the station. (2x23)
At the moment Desmond triggered the fail-safe, a huge, blinding white glow covered the Island and the sky turned 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 event was powerful enough to lift or repel, among other things, the heavy quarantine door into the air. It landed a considerable distance from its original location, narrowly missing Bernard and Claire. (2x23) Luckily Locke, Desmond, Charlie, and Eko survived the event, despite being inside the hatch. The remains of the Swan station were later seen by Charlie and Locke as a large crater in the ground. (3x03)
In a deleted scene from (3x14), Nikki reacted particularly drastically to the "purple sky", first by completely freaking out so Paulo had to calm her down, and subsequently by questioning her past behavior to her fellow castaways.
The effects of this event were detected by the men at the listening station as an "Electromagnetic Anomaly", which they then reported to Penelope Widmore. They had missed one at a time previously, and questioned whether it was another false alarm. (2x23)
After the event, Tom referred to it as the "sky turning purple", and said that it shut down the Others' communications. Mikhail also said there was an electromagnetic pulse which caused the submarine's underwater beacon to stop emitting its locater signal. (3x04) (3x07) (3x12)
However, it is later implied that the communications disruption was 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. (3x22) 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.(4x08)
- When Desmond turned the fail-safe key, he became unstuck in time, his consciousness re-experiencing events in his past, while gaining the limited ability of experiencing premonitions. (3x08)
- The high dose of electromagnetic energy that Desmond was presumably 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. (4x05)
- Eko was knocked unconscious, leaving him helpless against a polar bear that dragged him into a cave. (3x03) (3x05)
- Charlie remembered nothing of the implosion, but throughout Season 3 would be saved at various times from death by Desmond, with the aid of his flashes.
|Pre-crash events||Basra Incident • Car accidents • Collapsing deck accident • Count to five • Tampa Job|
|Arrivals to the Island||Mid-air break-up • Sailing race • Science expedition • Parachute|
|Dreams and visions||Charlie's dream • Claire's dream • Desmond's flashes • Eko's dreams • Locke's dreams|
|Various Island events||Distress signal • Fires • Pillar of smoke • Whispers • Major battles|
|Others and DHARMA events||Discharge • The Incident • Lockdown incident • The Purge • Push the Button • Supply drop • System Failure|