Ferdinand Magellan was one of the great explorers of his era. He was the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean and played a crucial role in the first circumnavigation of the world.

Born in 1480 into a noble Portuguese family, Magellan’s parents died when he was still a boy. In 1505, he enlisted in the fleet of the Portuguese viceroy to the Indies and spent the following years involved in a series of expeditions in India and Africa. In 1511, he was with the fleet that conquered Malacca on the Malay Peninsula, gaining control of the most important trade routes in the region. He also explored the islands of present-day Indonesia as far east as the Moluccas (also known as the Spice Islands).

After a disagreement with the Portuguese king, Magellan went to Spain and enlisted the Spanish king's support for an expedition to reach the Moluccas by sailing westwards to gain a share in the valuable spice trade for Spain. In September 1519 he set out with a fleet of five vessels and, in spite of a mutinous crew, rough weather, scurvy, a desperate lack of provisions and unknown waters, Magellan’s expedition became the first to sail from the Atlantic ocean into the Pacific Ocean. The passage was made through the straits at the southern point of South America which were later named after him.

Now with only three ships, Magellan sailed on into the Pacific with rapidly diminishing supplies, which led to many of the crew dying of starvation and scurvy. They then sailed on to the Philippines and eventually one ship from the fleet reached Spain in September 1522, having completed the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.

Magellan himself did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed after becoming involved in a local battle in the Philippines. However, the expedition reached a region of Southeast Asia which Magellan had reached on previous voyages traveling east. Magellan thereby achieved a nearly complete personal circumnavigation of the globe.