Born into a Portuguese noble family in around 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer and was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the "Spice Islands"). Commanding a fleet of five vessels, he headed south through the Atlantic Ocean to Patagonia, passing through the Strait of Magellan into a body of water he named the "peaceful sea" (the modern Pacific Ocean). Despite a series of storms and mutinies, the expedition reached the Spice Islands in 1521 and returned home via the Indian Ocean to complete the first circuit of the globe. Magellan did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521.
Magellan had already reached the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia on previous voyages traveling east (from 1505 to 1511–1512). By visiting this area again but now travelling west, Magellan achieved a nearly complete personal circumnavigation of the globe for the first time in history.
The Magellanic penguin is named after him, as he was the first European to note it. Magellan's navigational skills have also been acknowledged in the naming of objects associated with the stars, including the Magellanic Clouds, now known to be two nearby dwarf galaxies; the twin lunar craters of Magelhaens and Magelhaens A; and the Martian crater of Magelhaens.
Magellan was born in northern Portugal in around 1480, either at Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, in Douro Litoral Province, or at Sabrosa, near Vila Real, in Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro Province. He was the son of Rodrigo de Magalhães, Alcaide-Mor of Aveiro (1433–1500, son of Pedro Afonso de Magalhães and wife Quinta de Sousa) and wife Alda de Mesquita and brother of Leonor or Genebra de Magalhães, wife with issue of João Fernandes Barbosa.
In March 1505 at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host D. Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Although his name does not appear in the chronicles, it is known that he remained there eight years, in Goa, Cochin and Quilon. He participated in several battles, including the battle of Cannanore in 1506, where he was wounded. In 1509 he fought in the battle of Diu. He later sailed under Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in the first Portuguese embassy to Malacca, with Francisco Serrão, his friend and possibly cousin. In September, after arriving at Malacca, the expedition fell victim to a conspiracy ending in retreat. Magellan had a crucial role, warning Sequeira and saving Francisco Serrão, who had landed.