Between 2004 and 2010, ABC Television scored a major hit with its science fiction castaway show, Lost. Airing for 121 episodes over six seasons, Lost started with Ocean Airways Flight 815 broke up in mid-air over a mysterious island in the South Pacific. The Island was revealed to have unusual properties and to be at the centre of a struggle for power between two men, Ben Linus and Charles Widmore. But beyond that was a much greater and more supernatural struggle between two ancient, long-lived figures who had been waging an adversarial battle for two thousand years and, in the survivors of Flight 815, found proxies who could fight on their behalf. Above all, the show was the story of the survivors of Flight 815 and a number of other characters who came to the Island by other means, all of whom were “lost” in a spiritual or psychological sense and on the Island would find themselves.
Lost, despite some uneven storytelling and some questionable story turns in the final season, remains a pretty good show. I’m currently conducting a thorough rewatch of the series over at The Wertzone, and it’s held up pretty well (and even improved in some respects). Of course, one of the most interesting questions over the years has been about the geography of the Island. Although occasional maps were shown and the show’s producers confirmed that they did use a map in plotting out the story, no canonical, accurate map of the Island has been produced whilst the show was on the air, aside from those maps shown during the series itself. Since the show ended, a map was produced and included with the later complete series collections on Blu-Ray and DVD, but this map lacks any location details and there are no indications if this map is supposed to be reliable or just an interpretation of the Island, especially as it differs from the maps shown in the series itself in several key areas.
The most important map we are shown in the series itself is that created by Danielle Rousseau. Danielle arrived on the Island in 1988 after her scientific expedition picked up a signal apparently out of nowhere. Danielle’s crew-mates were then consumed by some form of “sickness” and went mad, forcing Danielle to kill them. She spent the next sixteen years alone on the Island until the arrival of the Oceanic 815 survivors in 2004. During this time she seems to have mapped the Island fairly extensively, even providing a scale and lines of latitude and longitude:
Using this map, the Island extends for about 37 miles (60km) from north to south. This makes the Island marginally smaller than the island of Oahu in Hawaii, which is where the bulk of the show was filmed. Some questions do arise about this map, most notably that during Danielle’s extensive explorations she apparently never discovered fairly notable landmarks including the Barracks and the Four-Toed Statue, or encountered any members of the Others or the remnants of the DHARMA Initiative. In addition, there appear to be large areas of the Island (such as the “Dark Territory”) which she avoided wherever possible. Still, a circumnavigation of the Island seems possible and there is the question over what exactly she was doing for sixteen years if she wasn’t exploring. Just hanging out in her camp? It is worth noting that she also seems to have deliberately left off areas of the map she knew about but considered too traumatic to revisit (most notably the Temple).
The next map was produced by the Lost team for the DVD and Blu-Ray releases after the show finished in 2010. We don’t know if this was actually worked on by the production team or just the art department for the media release. This map is broadly similar to Danielle’s, but differs in several key respects. Most notably, the map has been altered to have an absolutely massive secondary island off the east coast, which is presumably the Hydra Island. Given that the Hydra Island is repeatedly said to be quite small, barely big enough for a runway and that runway isn’t long enough to effectively land a jet airliner on, the smaller island in this map appears much too big. If anything, it feels like the two maps should be reversed: this looks more like a crude, roughly-drawn one and Danielle’s feels like a more exacting and accurate map. Given that all of the fan maps drawn over the years (and the additional maps used on the show) have used Danielle’s as a base and discarded the DVD/Blu-Ray one, I think it’s best to do the same thing.
There are several blogs and websites which have attempted to create maps of the Island. Some abandoned their efforts before the show ended, so were unable to use the details revealed in the last season, and others are simply plain wrong, not accounting for all of the details revealed in the show. Admittedly this is not helped by the often highly contradictory details given in the show. For example, Sayid says at one point that the Barracks are south of the crashed cockpit section of 815, but the cockpit is not far from the southern-most point of the Island and every other detail in over 100 episodes firmly placing the Barracks in the far north of the Island.
The Island Map Tumblr (shown at the top of the article) is probably the best site charting the attempts to create a map. It pays careful attention to distances (most notably the very short distances between the beach camp, Swan and caves which a lot of fan maps ignore) and takes on board evidence from across the whole series. You can see a much higher res version of the map here on Deviantart.
There are some niggling problems that no map has ever satisfactorily answered. Almost every reference in the show puts the Hydra Island quiet close to the Barracks in the far north of the Island. However, the producers also said that the Hydra Island is one of the islands shown on Danielle’s map. The DVD map even goes as far as to stick the Hydra Island off the south-western coast of the Island, which seems to be too far away. On the other hand, both DHARMA and the Others use motorboats and submarines to get to the Hydra and back from the Barracks, which dramatically reduces transport times even if it is 30+ miles away at the other end of the Island. The other issue is that travel across the Island is presented as hard, long and gruelling in the opening episodes of the show, with Sayid taking several days to travel around the south coast of the Island and the tailies taking several days to get from the Arrow Station in the far north-east of the Island to the main beach camp in the south-west. However, by Season 6 the survivors are flitting from one side of the Island to the other in just a few hours, often not bothering to stock up on supplies. This is somewhat down to narrative laziness, but it also reflects the survivors’ growing confidence and ease in their knowledge of the Island’s geography and where food and water can be found.
It would be nice to see an official Lost map produced, but six years after the show ended this seems a bit unlikely and it would take the fun out of things for fans trying to map the crazy Island themselves.