An automated, easily deployed Ice-Tethered Profiler (ITP) instrument system, developed for deployment on perennial sea ice in the polar oceans to measure changes in upper ocean water properties in all seasons, is described, and representative data from prototype instruments are presented. The ITP instrument consists of three components: a surface subsystem that sits atop an ice floe; a weighted, plastic-jacketed wire-rope tether of arbitrary length (up to 800 m) suspended from the surface element; and an instrumented underwater unit that employs a traction drive to profile up and down the wire tether. ITPs profile the water column at a programmed sampling interval; after each profile, the underwater unit transfers two files holding oceanographic and engineering data to the surface unit using an inductive modem and from the surface instrument to a shore-based data server using an Iridium transmitter. The surface instrument also accumulates battery voltage readings, buoy temperature data, and locations from a GPS receiver at a specified interval (usually every hour) and transmits those data daily. Oceanographic and engineering data are processed, displayed, and made available in near–real time (available online at http://www.whoi.edu/itp). Six ITPs were deployed in the Arctic Ocean between 2004 and 2006 in the Beaufort gyre with various programmed sampling schedules of two to six one-way traverses per day between 10- and 750–760-m depth, providing more than 5300 profiles in all seasons (as of July 2007). The acquired CTD profile data document interesting spatial variations in the major water masses of the Canada Basin, show the double-diffusive thermohaline staircase that lies above the warm, salty Atlantic layer, measure seasonal surface mixed layer deepening, and document several mesoscale eddies. Augmenting the systems already deployed and to replace expiring systems, an international array of more than one dozen ITPs will be deployed as part of the Arctic Observing Network during the International Polar Year (IPY) period (2007–08) holding promise for more valuable real-time upper ocean observations for operational needs, to support studies of ocean processes, and to facilitate numerical model initialization and validation.