Frozen wheel

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Frozen Wheel
[[{{{Video}}}|Orientation Video]]
Last seen
Constructed by
Controlled by
no one
Discovered by

A large eight-spoked frozen wheel at one of the Island's electromagnetic pockets harnessed the Heart of the Island to manipulate space and time. A well originally accessed its chamber, and the DHARMA Initiative later built the Orchid station on top of it. People who turned the wheel teleported to a site in Tunisia. When Benjamin Linus turned it in December 2004, the Island moved, the wheel slipped off its axis, and those on the island started shifting through time, seemingly randomly. A few days later for him, but at an indeterminate time in the Island's/chamber's past, a time-shifting John Locke turned the wheel to stabilize it again and end the time flashes. He too then teleported to the Tunisia site. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")  ("This Place Is Death")



6x15 AWheelToTheFuture
Mother inspects her son's latest invention.

While living with Claudia's people in an early unknown time on the Island, the Man in Black constructed an early prototype of the frozen wheel. He planned to install the wheel to harness the Island's Source and transport himself into the outside world. When questioned by his mother on how he had learned such things, he answered that he was "special". Before he could complete his project, his adopted mother knocked him unconscious. Upon awakening, he found the well filled, the village destroyed, and Claudia's people slain. ("Across the Sea")

It is not clear who completed the planned wheel mechanism beneath the Orchid, which may or may not have been the same location where the Man in Black's prototype was built. The final wheel's frozen chamber featured hieroglyphics, likely dating its construction the same time as the Temple, the Statue of Taweret, and the Tunnels.

Discovery and experiments by DHARMA

An image of the chamber. ("Because You Left")

In 1977, DHARMA Initiative construction workers excavated rock at the site to build the Orchid station, unaware of the wheel's existence. (DVD commentary) They discovered an anomaly and melted six drill bits trying to reach it. The drill operator then became dazed and suffered a nosebleed. When Dr. Pierre Chang arrived at the site, the construction foreman showed him a sonar image of what lay beyond the wall - the frozen wheel's outline. Dr. Chang ordered them to halt drilling, stating that they were close to a source of "almost limitless energy" which would let the Initiative manipulate time. He warned that continued drilling could release this energy with dangerous consequences. ("Because You Left")  ("The Incident, Part 1")

After the station was completed, Dr. Chang (using the alias "Edgar Halliwax") recorded the Orchid Orientation video, explaining that the nearby "negatively charged exotic matter" let DHARMA experiments with space and time. He cautioned that this pocket of matter was associated with volatile electromagnetic energy. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2") DHARMA used polar bears to turn the wheel as part of their experiments. One such bear ended up in the Tunisian desert, where Charlotte later discovered its remains. ("The New Man in Charge")  ("Confirmed Dead")

Ben's visit

4x13 MovingTheIsland
On turning the wheel, Ben is transported to the year 2005. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 3")

Believing Jacob had ordered the island to be moved, Ben took it upon himself to do so. He claimed that whoever turned the wheel could never return to the island, and Jacob wanted Ben to suffer these repercussions. To reach the wheel, Ben deliberately blew a hole in Orchid vault's back wall. He then crawled through into a rock tunnel, broke through a sheet of ice, and climbed down a wooden ladder into the wheel chamber.

Before turning the wheel, Ben looked upwards and uttered, "I hope you're happy now, Jacob." After much physical effort chipping away the ice around the wheel, he was finally able to turn it. As Ben turned the wheel, a loud humming and bright light surged outwards across the entire Island and for a considerable distance beyond. Ben was transported to "the exit" in Tunisia, the Island disappeared to the outside world, and the remaining survivors on the Island began moving through time. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")  ("Because You Left")

Ben clearly showed foreknowledge of the wheel's existence, location, and use. He also knew to wear a parka before entering the freezing wheel chamber and to bring a crowbar to aid in removing ice from the wheel.

Locke's visit

5x05 Give me the green light
The wheel emitting green light while off its axis ("This Place Is Death")

At some unknown point, a time-shifting Locke descended into a well near the future location of the Orchid. During his descent, another time flash occurred, shifting his companions on the surface to a period before the Orchid well was even built, in or before 1867. Locke, meanwhile, may have shifted forward in time below the surface (possibly due to his proximity to the chamber's pocket of electromagnetism) as he soon encountered The Man in Black (in the form of Christian Shephard), who appeared to Locke in the chamber and told him to re-align the wheel. In great pain, Locke, who had fallen during the time flash and experienced a compound leg fracture, approached the wheel. It vibrated and oscillated erratically, bathed in a pulsating green light emanating from beyond the wall. He pulled the wheel in a clockwise direction, resetting it. The light flashed brighter, and the final time flash occurred. The remaining time-shifting survivors on the surface were transported to 1974 and Locke himself was transported to "the exit" in Tunisia in late 2007. ("This Place Is Death")  ("316")  ("LaFleur")

Chamber layout

Upper tunnel

In 2004, Ben accessed the wheel chamber by blowing open a hole through the Orchid vault's back wall. It opened into a lateral rough-hewn tunnel, which led in one direction to the top of a ladder. The ladder led down a short distance to a ceiling entrance into the wheel chamber. A thin layer of ice sealed this entrance. A second wooden ladder led to the floor below. Another of DHARMA's sites that featured a complicated vertical entry also offered a separate entrance. The Polar bears that turned the wheel would likely need a entry for access. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")  ("Orientation")  ("The New Man in Charge") Sometime before 1974, the chamber could also be accessed by descending an ancient well. Charlotte appeared aware that one could access the wheel via the well. By 1974, however, the well had been filled in or had collapsed. ("This Place Is Death")

The wheel chamber

Hieroglyphs seen on the walls of the chamber ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")

The wheel was located in an ancient chamber deep underground. The walls were of rough-hewn stone except for the carved stone blocks that served as the wheel's mount. At least one rough column of rock adorned with hieroglyphs supported the ceiling. The column also held a hook supporting an old lantern which still contained fuel as of 2004.

When Ben visited the wheel, the temperature in the chamber was clearly below freezing, making it an unusual location on a tropical island. A fine layer of grime and ice crystals covered the walls, ceiling, and floor, and large icicles hung down the walls and covered the wheel itself. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2") Much less ice was visible during Locke's later visit. ("This Place Is Death")

The wheel

4x13-wheel-metal bands
Metal bands appear to hold the wheel together. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")

The wheel itself appeared to be fairly elaborate and was made of wood, held together with metal bindings, similar in fashion to nautical construction. The tips of the wheel's spokes had holes bored through them for some unknown purpose. In attempting to free the wheel from the ice, Ben threaded his crowbar through one to gain more leverage. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")

The wheel turned an unseen mechanism that manipulated the Light. Bright light or energy emitted from behind when the wheel turns. When Locke found the wheel off its axis, green light flashed periodically behind the wall as the wheel rocked back and forth. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")  ("This Place Is Death")

A thin amount of vapor exuded from inside the wall on one occasion while the wheel was quiescent during Ben's visit. ("There's No Place Like Home, Part 2")

Time anomaly

The wheel and chamber did not necessarily follow the same linear time flow as the surface. This is apparent because The Man in Black had already assumed Christian's form inside the chamber during Locke's visit. During the Man in Black's conversation with Locke, he gave Locke no indication what specific year it was from their perspective beneath the surface - although Locke's friends above ground had clearly shifted to a time period on or prior to 1867, as they could see the full Tawaret statue undamaged from their position in the jungle. It is possible that, when one moved closer to the wheel's chamber (as Locke did upon descending into the well) the temporal effects were be felt differently by the approaching individual.


The exit is monitored by CCTV. ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham")
Locke wakes up in the Tunisian desert at the exit. ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham")

Individuals turning the wheel were transported to "the exit": a location in the Tunisian desert. Upon turning the wheel, Ben was transported there sometime on October 24, 2005. He killed two Tunisian locals that confronted him, likely knowing that they were Charles Widmore's men, and made his escape. ("The Shape of Things to Come"). At some point after Ben's arrival, Charles Widmore had a CCTV camera installed to watch for others who might leave the Island in this way. After turning the wheel, Locke arrived at the exit point in 2007. He was picked up by Widmore's people soon after his arrival. ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham") Exactly how much time elapsed between turning the wheel and one's arrival in the real world appeared to vary: Ben appeared at the exit about ten months after he turned the wheel, but Locke was transported across a greater span of time. As The Man in Black had already assumed Christian's form, he must have been transported up to 3 years forwards in time.

In 2004, Charlotte found the remains of a DHARMA Initiative polar bear near this location in the Tunisian desert, which likely arrived here as a result of a DHARMA experiment. ("Confirmed Dead")

Both the Lost producers and Charles Widmore have referred to the area as "the exit." (Official Lost Podcast/February 26, 2009)  ("The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham")


"I hope you're happy now, Jacob." - Ben

Picture Name First visit Last visit Reason for visit
Ben "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2" "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2" Ben turned the wheel to move the Island.
Locke-portal John "This Place Is Death" "This Place Is Death" Locke pulled the wheel back onto its axis to stop the Island's time shifts.
The Man in Black "Across the Sea" "This Place Is Death" The Man in Black began construction of the wheel or reconstructed a very similar version in Classical times (with the existence of Egyptian Hieroglyphs at the location it could had possibly predated the birth of The Man In Black), potentially at the same site. The Man in Black may have later appeared in the form of Christian Shephard when Locke fell into the chamber, in order to instruct him to place the wheel back on its axis. He offered no explanation as to how he arrived in the chamber, or why it was Locke that necessarily that had to turn it but did confirm what both Richard Alpert and "Christian" said himself that he had to bring the Oceanic Six survivors back to the Island and he had to die in the effort.
Mother "Across the Sea" "Across the Sea" Mother visited The Man in Black while he was constructing the wheel, and after he ignored her pleas she knocked him unconscious. It is assumed she moved The Man in Black out of the well and filled it in.


Frozen wheel mockup
Fan mock-up of entire wheel, based on the over-head picture above, demonstrating that the frozen wheel is similar to the Dharmacakra.
  • The wheel resembled a treadwheel, a device used by humans and animals (usually donkeys, mules, or horses) in which a wheel is turned to do some form of labor. While human tread-wheels could take the form used in the cave scene, animal tread-wheels require 360 degree access with which to completely circumnavigate the wheel axis in order to work properly.
  • The wheel also appeared to be similar in form to the dharmacakra, or the "Wheel of Dharma". The eight-spoke wheel that is one of the oldest in Buddhism. To "turn the wheel of dharma" means to reveal the universal truths necessary to the path of enlightenment.
  • The Kālacakra is a Sanskrit term used in Vajrayāna Buddhism. The term means "time-wheel" or "time-cycles".
  • The Wheel of Fortune is a Roman and Medieval symbol often represented in art and Western literature as having eight spokes. The goddess Fortuna, as fate, controlled the four stages of life and spun the wheel as she wished. She was also known to favor the bold.
  • Recent scientific literature suggests that the bridge of traversable wormholes of exotic matter can have negative temperature,[1] as well as zero for the asymptotic exit in a certain model.[2]

Production notes

  • "The Frozen Donkey Wheel" was the code name used by the producers to refer to the Season 4 finale's "secret scene". Before the episode aired, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse said in the March 21, 2008 Official Lost Podcast that while there would still be a cliffhanger, they were using this season's code name to refer to a secret scene earlier in the episode. Later, in the Season 4 DVD commentary, they implied that they referred to the earlier scene involving Ben in the cave in order to keep spoiler sources focused on that scene instead of the one with Locke's body in the coffin, in a sense making the earlier scene a decoy for the real secret scene with Locke. Regardless of which scene is considered the real secret scene, the surprise turned out to be that the too-bizarre-to-be-literal "code name" turned out not to be a code name at all, but a description of the frozen wheel that Ben turns to move the Island.
  • To make the efforts to turn the wheel more realistic, a 250-pound man put his weight against it, so actor Michael Emerson really had to work on it to turn it.[3]

See also

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: Frozen wheel/Theories
  • Who completed the construction of the frozen wheel?
  • Why is the wheel chamber so cold?


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