The areal extent of the ice covered Arctic Ocean is about four times the size of the Mediterranean Sea. More than 50 years after identification of the main bathymetric features in the deep polar basin, our coverage of modern multichannel seismic data is still limited to what a single ship would complete under open-ocean conditions in about two and a half months. In addition, an estimated one-fifth of the deepwater area is inaccessible to icebreaker surveys with surface-towed equipment. Signal-to-noise levels achieved in multichannel seismic data acquisition from icebreakers are sufficient to identify acoustic basement below more than 3 s (two-way travel time) of sediments in spite of reduced source and receiver arrays. Our current reconnaissance stage in deep basin exploration will at least include the coming decade as surveys by diesel-driven icebreakers are largely restricted by contemporary patterns of open leads in the sea ice cover.