Here's a complete guide to all of the Dharma stations in Lost. One of Lost's biggest early mysteries was the presence of man-made structures and technology on a seemingly remote and abandoned island. Clearly, the island had once been home to a large group of settlers who had access to the outside world and certain aesthetic touches hinted towards activity in the 1970s and 1980s. Eventually, these islanders were revealed to be the Dharma Initiative - a group of scientists who traveled to the island in order to experiment on and study its unique properties.
Set up by the mysterious Karen and Gerald DeGroot, the Dharma Initiative was an assembly of world-class scientists who practiced various fields of study and pseudo-science. Their overall goal, however, was to find a way to alter the Valenzetti Equation - a mathematical formula that supposedly predicts the end of the world - and it seems the island was deemed the most promising way of achieving this.
Funded by the wealthy Alvar Hanso - whose ancestor had crashed onto the island while captaining the Black Rock - the Dharma Initiative built a number of stations across the island, each serving a specific social or scientific purpose. Some of these facilities were isolated, some were kept secret, and others were designed to directly communicate with each other. Dharma also built one off-island outpost, all with the overarching purpose of cracking open the island's secrets. Here are all of the Dharma stations revealed in Lost.
Introduced in Lost season 3, the Hydra is the Dharma Initiative's hub for animal-based research and is located on a smaller, separate island accessible by boat. When Jack, Kate and Sawyer are taken prisoner by the Others, the trio are kept at the Hydra station and placed in the same large jungle cages that Dharma once used to store animals. Within these cages, performing certain actions would result in the release of a fish biscuit. Both the mysterious polar bear and the giant bird crying "Hurley" were originally test subjects at the Hydra station, with Dharma attempting to genetically manipulate creatures brought over from the outside world. These efforts resulted in the creation of Hy-bird.
The Hydra station also contained an operating theater and the infamous Room 23 brainwashing center. Dharma first used this part of the facility to wipe the memories of Others that they had captured, but after all Dharma employees were killed, the Others used Room 23 to ensure their members remained dedicated to the teachings of Jacob. The Others would also use the Hydra as a base of operations while building a runway on the secondary island and Charles Widmore's team made camp in the station when returning to the island in Lost season 6.
The Arrow's main purpose is to serve as a shelter for the few remaining tail-section survivors of the Oceanic plane crash. When the likes of Ana Lucia and Mr. Eko are introduced in Lost season 2, the missing group have managed to survive on the island by making camp inside the abandoned Arrow station. Unlike many other Dharma outposts on the island, however, the Arrow doesn't offer much in the way of comfort. Aside from basic electricity and protection from the elements, the Arrow is relatively bare compared to the other stations, which still contain most of their original equipment and supplies.
The only item of note contained within the Arrow is a section of Dharma Orientation film warning employees against communicating with the outside world, but in "Because You Left," Lost reveals that the Arrow was built as a way of developing defense strategies against the Others. At a later stage, the Arrow was used as a general storage facility, but it seems the Others emptied out the building before the Oceanic crash. Dharma favorite, Horace Goodspeed, was one of the primary staff members at the Arrow.
The first station unveiled in Lost, the Swan is inhabited by Desmond and located by the Oceanic survivors when they find a man-made hatch in the middle of the jungle. The Swan's main purpose was originally to study the island's electromagnetism, but eventually comes to house two workers who input a sequence of numbers into a computer every 108 minutes in order to avoid a global catastrophe. Although Jack initially suspects this to be some kind of psychological experiment, the threat is proved to be very real.
In the 1970s, Dharma detected special electromagnetic properties beneath the island's surface and began drilling into the ground to learn more. Upon breaching this pocket of energy, however, the electromagnetism became unstable, leading to what became known as "the Incident." As an unfortunate consequence, a computer was required to discharge the built-up energy at regular intervals. Desmond Hume was the last man to take this job and, after failing to input the code within the allotted time, he triggered a fail-safe procedure that destroyed the Swan and negated the electromagnetism completely.
After blowing open the hatch and finding Desmond still plugging away, the Lost survivors use the Swan as their main shelter, since the station's long-term worker shifts meant the station was designed to be comfortable, well-stocked and homely. One of the Swan's blast doors has an ultra-violet map of the island painted by Dharma members Radzinsky and Inman.
Discovered in Lost season 3, the Flame is a communications station, featuring a large satellite dish on the roof that could send messages both across the island and to the outside world, as well as receive broadcast transmissions from across the globe. The network of cables found on Lost's island can all be traced back to the Flame and the station was rigged with C-4 explosives to prevent its technology and resources falling into the hands of the Others.
Following the Dharma purge, the Flame was inhabited by the eyepatch-clad Mikhail and this is who the survivors meet when they first arrive at the station. One of the Flame's key components is a computer loaded with a rudimentary chess game but, as Locke discovers, victory allows the user to send out certain special codes, including requests for supplies and "77," which triggers the destruction of the Flame station.
The Pearl is essentially an isolated surveillance station that can monitor other Dharma facilities across the island, but later served as part of a wider psychological experiment. Since the Pearl was built entirely underground, the entrance is marked by a question mark symbol shaped into the jungle grass using salt. Pearl employees were encouraged to observe and make notes on their colleagues over at the Swan and this discovery convinced Jack Shepard that the inputting of numbers to prevent an unknown catastrophe was nothing more than another Dharma study. However, those working at the Pearl were later revealed as the true test subjects, and their observation notebooks were implied to be part of Dharma's mental testing.
After filling their notebooks with data, the Pearl's staff would send them away via pneumatic tube, however a group of survivors later find these capsules abandoned at a dump site, suggesting Dharma had no real interest in observing the mental state of those at the Swan. Another vital function of the Pearl is to automatically log accepted codes and system failures that occur at the Swan, and this is how Desmond proves the cause of Oceanic 815's crash.
One of the final stations to appear on Lost, the Orchid's exterior posed as a botanical research facility with a large greenhouse, but its true purpose was the development and study of time travel. The Orchid is built over a far more ancient chamber containing a frost-covered wheel that harnesses the natural energy of the island to manipulate time and space, and the Orchid's experiments revolve around this same energy source. Dharma's tests in this field were largely conducted on rabbits, which were sent milliseconds out of time, but it's later suggested that similar experiments were conducted on polar bears and possibly even human corpses.
Despite being able to power Lost's time travel, the underground energy available at the Orchid was said to pale in comparison to the pocket of electromagnetism present beneath the Swan station.
The Looking Glass
Located deep underwater, Dharma's Looking Glass station will most likely be remembered as the scene of Charlie's tragic death, in which the character risked everything to warn his friends about a troublesome transmission. The Looking Glass served as a secondary communications outpost, but performed a very different function than that of the Flame station. Lost's island was notoriously difficult to navigate and with Dharma relying on submarines to ferry in new scientists from the outside world, the Looking Glass sent out a beacon that would guide the vessels towards the island. The Others also use the machinery at the Looking Glass station to jam communications between the Oceanic survivors and the outside.
After the Dharma stations were taken over by the Others, Ben Linus pretended to his followers that the Looking Glass was flooded, but secretly had a small team working there in order to maintain the disruption of communications.
The Staff acts as one of several medical facilities the Dharma Initiative constructed on the island, although since generic, unnamed infirmaries are also seen, it's likely that medical research was also conducted at this site. Workers at the Staff were responsible for ensuring newcomers were injected with a certain vaccine, although it's never clear what disease the jab supposedly prevents, suggesting a deeper experiment may have been taking place. Even after the Oceanic crash, the Staff remained a valuable treasure trove of medical supplies.
After the Dharma Initiative were wiped out, the Others began using the Staff station to treat and study pregnant women, attempting to find a solution to the island's disruption of bearing children. This is why Claire is taken there after being abducted. The scene where Juliet carries out an ultrasound scan on Sun proves that the Staff's equipment remains functional even in later seasons. In addition to medical facilities, the Staff also contained a nursery, designed and decorated for Claire's baby after birth.
Barely featuring in Lost, the Tempest appears to be a facility entirely dedicated to the creation and storage of toxic gases. The Dharma Initiative might have built this station as part of their ongoing studies, or due to the emergence of the Others as a threat to their presence on their island. In either case, the Tempest proved to be Dharma's downfall, as Ben Linus betrayed his people and used the station's chemical weapons to kill off virtually every Dharma employee on the island. The Tempest's capabilities were destroyed by Daniel and Charlotte in Lost season 4, as they anticipated Ben might use it again.
The Lamp Post
The Lamp Post is the only Dharma Initiative station located off the island, and can be found in Los Angeles disguised as a church. The purpose of the Lamp Post is to calculate the island's position at any given period, since its exact location is in a constant state of flux. Using complex mathematics and a large pendulum, the mainland Dharma team can predict where the island will be and therefore know exactly where to send future recruits. The Lamp Post was built on a pocket of energy similar to those found on the island itself, and this allowed scientists to determine appropriate windows for travel. This process was also used to organize regular supply drops to the island.
Following the Others' defeat of the Dharma Initiative, The Lamp Post station was put under the care of Eloise Hawking who helped facilitate the return of the Oceanic survivors to the island in Lost season 5.